Workers in Ireland are to have the right to request remote working from their employer under plans for new legislation published by the government.
The legislation is set to be introduced in September, 2021 in a strategy published by the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Leo Varadkar.
Titled: “Making Remote Work: National Remote Work Strategy,” the strategy aims to strengthen the rights and responsibilities of workers and employers for remote working and provide the infrastructure to do so.
As well, a legally admissible code of practice on the right to disconnect will be introduced in relation to emails, phone calls and switch-off time.
Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said he wants remote working to be part of a whole new world of work after the Covid-19 pandemic as 2020 has shown how viable the option can be.
However, Mr Varadkar thinks a culture shift will be required and said employment rights need to be updated for the plans to work properly.
“Working from home has become the norm for many in 2020. We want remote, blended and flexible working arrangements a much bigger part of life after Covid.
“We’ve seen that there can be huge benefits – more flexibility, less commuting, more time for family and friends. It’s better for the transport emissions, and for quality of life, but it has to be done right,” said Mr Varadkar.
“Employment rights need to be updated, we need to give guidance, and in many cases, we need to provide actual physical working space. It also requires a cultural shift in favour of facilitating it as an option.
“This Plan shows how we will bring all those parts together. I think it will make a real difference to people’s working lives,” he said.
Plans to accelerate the rollout of the National Broadband Plan are under proposal while the government is to promote blended working to allow people more flexibility on how they work.
The strategy commits to investing in remote work hubs and ensure they are in suitable locations for childcare and commuters.
A review of remote working for tax and expenditure for the next Budget will also be carried out and the plan commits for 20% of workers in the public sector to be able to work from home.
“Many people will want to continue on to do at least some remote working after the pandemic, and it’s really important that we protect the rights and entitlements of those workers so that they can still ‘switch off’ from work.
“That is why we have included the right to disconnect piece. We want to put in place the structures which ensure we take advantage of the benefits of remote working and protect against the downsides,” said Mr Varadkar.
Actions laid out by the strategy are set out for the next year and will be monitored by an implementation group.
A survey by Eurofound published last year in October showed Ireland had one of the highest rates of remote working in Europe.
83% of workers surveyed by the Irish Business and Employers Confederation (IBEC) wanted remote working to continue in some form after the pandemic.
The Government's plan to request to work from home has been welcomed by unions.
Ireland’s largest public service union, Fórsa has welcomed the move but has also called for engagement on the detailed roll-out of the proposals.
The Government strategy includes pledges introduce a legally admissible code of practice on the right to disconnect and a review of the treatment of remote working for tax purposes.
"Fórsa very much welcomes the pledge to establish legal rights to disconnect and to request remote working, which would bring Ireland closer to European best practice," Fórsa’s Head of Communications Bernard Harbor said.
"But there needs to be engagement with trade unions and other stakeholders on the detail of these and other proposals to ensure that fair access to remote working and proper protections for all staff regardless of where they work,” he said.