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Fear of litigation deters bosses from writing remote-working policies
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09 Dec 2019 / employment Print

Litigation fear deters bosses on remote-work policies

Remote working can widen the talent pool, stimulate regional growth, lessen accommodation pressures in cities, and support the transition to a greener economy, An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said.

He was speaking  following a special Cabinet meeting in Trim, Co Meath, on 6 December, at which job creation, rural development and new technology were discussed.

Ownership

However, the prevalence of remote working is still unknown in Ireland, which a newly-published  Government report has attributed to a lack of clear departmental ownership driving an enabling policy.

The report examines international flexible working practices, and considers how to increase remote working here.

However, the report finds a lack of clarity for employers on how to implement a formal HR policy around remote working.

Many organisations have reservations about having a policy in writing because of the inability to make all roles within an organisation remote, and the potential equality issues that may arise from this.

Fear

There is also a lack of clarity around occupational health-and-safety requirements, leading to a fear of litigation.

Employers would benefit from increased clarity and support in balancing their employees’ right to privacy, and the practical elements of performance measurement and monitoring working hours, the report finds.

Dublin (49%) and Cork (33%) were the counties with the highest proportions of businesses offering remote working.

Foreign-owned businesses also have higher levels (40%) compared with Irish businesses (33%).

No physical offices

Recent years have also seen the emergence of fully remote employers, such as Hotjar and Shopify, which have a full homeworking model, with no physical offices in Ireland.

Remote working helps employees to achieve a better work-life balance, the research shows, and 60% of remote workers say it improves their lives.

The research shows 43.5% of workers identified greater flexibility as their primary motivator for working remotely, while 40.5% identified reduced commuting time and 60% said work/life balance was the key benefit.

An Taoiseach said last Friday that Ireland must create a low-carbon, highly-productive and technologically advanced society, where family life is prioritised.

Living standards

As Ireland nears full employment, living standards are rising and poverty and deprivation are falling. Statistics show 29 consecutive quarters of decline in the numbers unemployed.

But he warned against complacency, and said that the economy must be geared to withstand shocks, “if and when they come down the road”.

“I want the people of this country to go into 2020 – a new decade – feeling confident about their future, and to have a better quality of life than they did in the past,” he said.

“We want to facilitate remote working, help people to upskill, improve work-life balance, provide more family time, and ensure [that] new jobs being created are high quality and sustainable.”

This research includes a review of international flexible working practices, including the right to request flexible working arrangements in Britain, and the right to disconnect in France.

Employee demand, increased productivity, and cost-effectiveness are strong drivers of the adoption of remote-working solutions.

Reduced commuting

Reduced commuting times were also identified by 40.5% of respondents as a key factor.

However, switching off and avoiding overwork was identified as the most common challenge of working remotely, and the practice has some potentially negative mental- and physical-health impacts.

The report identifies three issues for employers:

  • Guidance – a lack of official guidelines for employers, employees and HR professionals on the topic of remote working,
  • Data – a need for more data to ensure that informed policy decisions are made,
  • Collaboration – increased collaboration would ensure a more cohesive Government approach.

An interdepartmental group comprising all relevant departments and agencies is being formed to align approaches and develop clear guidance.

Remote working was found to be more prevalent in the private sector (63%), compared with the public sector (28%).

The wellbeing benefits of remote include higher morale, lower stress levels, and lower absenteeism.

Digital advances

Business minister Heather Humphreys added: “The world of work is changing, and technological and digital advances present us with new opportunities, particularly in rural Ireland.

“Remote working can breathe life into our towns and villages right across the country by allowing people to work and live where they’re from. It can also take pressure off our cities and bring environmental benefits with reduced commuting times. 

“Businesses can also benefit from having a flexible and more productive workforce. The National Broadband Plan will open up a world of opportunities in this space, so now is the time to develop official guidelines for employers and employees.”

Autonomous cars

The Cabinet also agreed at its meeting to amend legislation to allow for the testing of autonomous cars on public roads.

The Road Traffic (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill will be amended, complemented by delivery of strict guidelines for testing CAVs (‘Connected and Autonomous Vehicles’).  

The Road Traffic Bill also provides the legal basis for the deployment of active traffic management on key roads, such as the M50, through variable speed limit and lane-control signalling, which will be deployed next year. 

Policy direction

The Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment  will also develop a policy-direction document in relation to drones.

The Government also considered progress on the development of a new policy for rural Ireland. Rural and Community Development Minister Michael Ring told the Cabinet that the new policy would succeed the Action Plan for Rural Development, and would cover the period 2020-2025.

Gazette Desk
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