The Government plans to give workers the legal right to request remote working as part of a national strategy on the issue.
Published by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, the National Remote Work Strategy is aimed at ensuring that remote working becomes a permanent feature in the Irish workplace “in a way that maximises economic, social and environmental benefits”.
Lack of a legal framework
Currently, workers can request the right to remote work from their employers, but there is no legal framework around which a request can be framed.
The strategy says legislation on this topic will provide this framework, and also give employers clarity on best practice when dealing with such requests.
EU member states are also obliged to implement a 2019 EU Directive which includes the right to request flexible working arrangements for carers and working parents of children up to eight.
The department says it will also mandate that home and remote work should be the norm for 20% of public sector employment.
Risks of remote working
Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said the pandemic had changed the world of work forever. He said that while these changes would be, on balance, for the better, there were also risks.
The strategy cites research showing that remote working is linked with negative effects on employees’ mental health, with workers experiencing feelings of isolation, loneliness and stress.
Workers also have difficulty switching off and keeping regular working hours.
Submissions which fed into the strategy differed on whether legislation on the ‘right to disconnect’ — the ability to disengage with work and avoid work-related communications during non-work hours and holidays — was needed.
Review of tax arrangements
As a result, the Government has asked the Workplace Relations Commission to draw up a code of practice in this area, which could then be referred to in disputes and adjudications.
The strategy also noted that the Health and Safety Authority is participating in an EU-wide review of relevant legislation in the light of the shift to home working.
“Based on the findings of these reviews, it is possible that there will be changes to international health and safety guidelines in the future,” the strategy says.
The report also says the Department of Finance will review tax arrangements for remote working for employers and employees and “assess the merits of further enhancements” ahead of Budget 2022.