Remote Working – Here to Stay? Government Announces National Remote Working Strategy
The Government has announced its strategy to legislate for the right to request to work remotely. The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment has published its report “Making Remote Work: National Remote Work Strategy” which can be accessed here.
In the foreword of the Strategy, the Tánaiste, Leo Varadkar, notes the way the pandemic has changed typical working practices and whilst many employees are awaiting a return to the office, it cannot be denied that certain working practices shall not return. He predicts a mix of full-time office-based workers, blended workers and those who will work remotely all the time. In light of this, the National Remote Work Strategy has been developed.
The main proposals contained in the National Remote Work Strategy come under three pillars:
- Pillar One: Creating the right environment for remote work which may involving revising current legislation and introducing new legislation to provide for the right to request work remotely together with a code of practice on the right to disconnect and even creating financial / taxation incentives to encourage the uptake of remote work;
- Pillar Two: Developing remote work infrastructure through the development of hubs and the rollout of the National Broadband plan; and
- Pillar Three: Building a Remote Work Policy and Guidance Framework.
There are also commitments made that 20% of public sector workers will be converted to remote workers.
Whilst the strategy is sure to be welcomed by some employees who have embraced remote working, it is sure to raise some questions with employers and employees alike.
– Will remote working have a negative impact on gender equality in the workplace?
– Will new starters be capable of requesting to work remotely or will there be a minimum service requirement?
– How would a potential disciplinary process be affected if employees are working remotely? Will it be possible to fairly implement personal improvement plans?
Employees in Ireland can currently request to work remotely, and some employees may also have a right to currently request remote work accommodations on grounds of disability. The Strategy is merely proposing to implement a more concrete legal framework under which such requests can be dealt with and creating guidance for employers to handle these types of requests.
Furthermore, the EU introduced the Work-Life Balance Directive in August 2019, aimed at providing better work-life balance for working parents and carers, including a right to request flexible working arrangements to accommodate childcare and carer obligations and member states have three years to comply with this Directive, meaning the new remote working way of life is likely here to stay.
Overall whilst this publication is a positive move it has to be acknowledged that remote working is not without its challenges and we look forward to seeing further detail on how the benefits of remote and office work can be balanced going forward.
If you have any questions about this article or if you want to find out more about Remote Working, please contact Emma Richmond, Marie Claire Scullion of our Employment Department or your usual Whitney Moore contact.
If your query is Covid-19 related, you can also contact us on our dedicated helpline on 01 6110016.