Extending the Government’s working from home allowance to 30% of expenditure on utilities will be worth €220 per worker per year, the Employment Minister Leo Varadkar has said.
He said it was expected a quarter of a million people would benefit from the measure.
“This will be a plus for people working from home, but of course it could be higher than that,” he said.
Previously, the allowance for remote working in terms of electricity and heating bills was 10%, assuming the person working remotely wasn’t claiming a daily allowance from their employer of up to €3.20 per day.
The broadband subsidy level was already set at 30%.
Mr Varadkar said the new allowance would be calculated on a pro-rata basis to allow for those choosing to work in a hybrid fashion, with their time split between the office and home.
“If you’re working at home two days out of five, then obviously it’s 40% of that, that’s the way it’s going to work,” he said.
He added he “certainly would encourage people” to claim the relief.
“I think there has been an under-claim so far of that relief given that so many people have been working at home,” he said.
Those who are currently claiming a working from home allowance can only do so in one go at the end of the financial year, as opposed to on a monthly basis in line with both their bills and receipt of wages.
The requirement for employees to work from home where possible will finally be removed on October 22, at the same time as the last of Ireland’s Covid-19 restrictions are removed.
Brian Keegan, director of public policy at Chartered Accountants Ireland, said the changes were 'tokenistic'and will be worth at most €60 a year for many individuals. The accountants estimate the existing scheme, which is worth €20 an annual to individuals, will increase to €60, and "hardly offsetting" the hike in the costs of heating a home and paying for broadband, Mr Keegan said. The estimates are based on people working two or three days at home, under the so-called hybrid working that many office workers are facing.
The new allowance was criticised by the country’s largest public service union Fórsa, which said further action from the Government in terms of blended working was required.
The Tanaiste’s department launched its remote working strategy last January, in which – along with a commitment to allow workers to request the right to work from home - it said it would mandate that home and remote work should be the norm for 20% of the public sector.
Kevin Callinan, Fórsa’s general secretary, said talks between the union and Government on the “additional costs” associated with remote working would be “far more significant” than the new measures in terms of achieving the January strategy’s commitment towards 20% of public sector staff working from home.
“It’s not credible to expect staff to take on significant costs that are currently borne by their employers, particularly when fuel costs are spiking as we enter the colder months,” Mr Callinan said.
Regarding the overarching remote working strategy, Mr Varadkar said “mainly what I want is for people to have a choice” as to how they work, adding the right to request to be able to work from home is “the next step”.
Separately, the Tánaiste said the widening of the 20% tax band to €36,800 from €35,300 in line with inflation of 3%, will equate to “an extra €400 in the pocket” for people earning more than that amount.
He said the extension of the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme until next April, first introduced in September 2020 and aimed at subsidising wages for employers whose bottom line was impacted by the pandemic, amounted to the “biggest single measure in the budget”.
“It’s a big contrast to what’s happening north of the border where employers are getting no help,” he said. “We want as many businesses to survive and to save as many jobs as we possibly can.”