Proposed law on access to remote working 'effectively useless'

Proposed law on access to remote working 'effectively useless'

Employees working from home will save at least €304 each year, recent research suggests. Picture: Joe Giddens/PA Wire

The trade union Fórsa has dismissed remote working legislation proposed by the Government as “effectively useless”, and committed to seeking “fair access” to remote and blended work.

At its national conference on Thursday, the public sector union voted to approve a motion calling for employers to be obliged to demonstrate “objective reasons” for refusing remote working arrangements.

Unions have been sharply critical of the Government’s Right to Request Remote Work Bill, first introduced in January of this year, predominantly for the 13 reasons it contains under which employers could refuse a request to work remotely.

Seconding the motion at Thursday’s conference, Fórsa national secretary Bernard Harbor said that the draft legislation’s “non-existent” appeals mechanisms had “cemented our assessment that the proposed law was effectively useless”.

The motion further calls for the Government to fully implement its own remote working strategy from January of 2021, with a commitment that 20% of public service jobs be worked remotely.

“Of course we accept that some work functions could not be performed on a remote basis,” Mr Harbor told the conference. 

But the legislation should not allow employers to refuse flexible work arrangements on spurious grounds.” 

“The experience of the pandemic has shown that remote working does not negatively impact on productivity, performance, quality, or data security,” he said, adding that employers “must not have the option of simply turning down requests on spurious or vague grounds”.

The approved motion also contains a provision that revised legislation regarding working from home will provide “specific advice on compliance with working time legislation”, aimed at facilitating the right to disconnect — aimed at preventing work from intruding on people’s private lives.

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