The Government has published its legislation which will give people the right to ask their employers for flexible or home-working.
While the bill requires employers to formally set out a reason for rejecting a request, it does not guarantee any worker a right to work from home. Indeed, the bill contains 13 provisions under which an employer can reject a request.
- The nature of the work not allowing for the work to be done remotely, such as in healthcare or retail
- The employer cannot re-organise work among existing staff
- If the employer feels there is a potential negative impact on quality of work
- If the employer feels there is a potential negative impact on performance
- Planned structural changes within the company
- Any burden of additional costs, taking into account the financial and other costs entailed and the scale and financial resources of the employer’s business
- Concerns about the protection of business confidentiality or intellectual property
- Concerns about the suitability of the proposed workspace on health and safety grounds
- Concerns about the suitability of the proposed workspace on data protection grounds
- Concerns about the internet connectivity of the proposed remote-working location
- An inordinate distance between the proposed remote location and on-site location
- If the proposed remote-working arrangement conflicts with the provisions of a collective working agreement
- An ongoing or recently concluded formal disciplinary process
The Right to Request Remote Working Bill 2021 will, for the first time, provide a legal framework around which requesting, approving or refusing a request for remote work can be based.
Under the bill, all workplaces must have a written statement which sets out the company’s Remote Working Policy, specifying the manner in which remote-working requests are managed and the conditions which will apply to remote-working within the organisation.
If rejected, the employee will have to wait a period of 12 months to submit another request, provided they are in the same role, but if an employee moves to a new role within the company, they can submit a fresh request. The employee must receive an answer within 12 weeks.
An employee will be eligible to submit a request once they have worked for their employer for a period of six months. However, an employer is free to offer remote work from day one if desired.
There will be a right of appeal to the Workplace Relations Commission where an employer has failed to respond to a request or to provide any reasonable grounds for refusal of a request for remote-working.
Publishing the bill, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said that it would give clarity to workers.
“I know throughout the pandemic, many employers have gone to great lengths to give their employees as much flexibility around where they work as possible. We want this to continue. The world of work has changed and I know many would like to retain some amount of remote-working once Covid is behind us.
“This new law will give every employee the right to request remote-working from their employer. Employers will be required to provide reasonable grounds for refusing to facilitate an employees’ request. These grounds are set out in the legislation and we will develop Codes of Practice to provide guidance to help employers implement the new law.
“It will give employers and workers legal clarity on remote-working, which became the default for many during the pandemic.”
However, the opposition criticised the bill, with Labour's Enterprise spokesperson Marie Sherlock saying it is "short-sighted" and "doomed to fail".