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Jan 2022

26

New bill for remote working set to be introduced

On the 21st of January, Taoiseach Micheál Martin announced the lifting of nearly all COVID-19 restrictions. This meant that beginning this week, employees could begin a phased return to offices where they are no longer required to adhere to social distancing. While many businesses welcomed the news, there was a renewed concern on whether employers would give their staff the option of remote or hybrid working.

Those concerned will have welcomed the news that a Right to Request Remote Working Bill will be introduced to the Oireachtas. On Monday the 24th of January, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar made an announcement on the right to request remote working and stated that the government wants remote working to be a choice to help with work life balance and that it should be facilitated where possible by the employer, however there will be circumstances where an employer will be within their rights to not grant a request which will be laid out in the bill.

What is the purpose of the bill?

Currently, there is no legal framework for remote or hybrid working. In order for remote working to become a permanent feature in Ireland, the government wants to introduce legislation that will underpin employees’ right to request remote work. It is their aim that remote working will become a permanent feature of Ireland’s workforce, with benefits for the economy, society, and the environment. These goals have been outlined in the national Remote Work Strategy published last year.

The proposed bill does not seek to make remote working an absolute right for employees. With many jobs requiring employees to be present in the workplace, Varadkar says it would not be “practical”. Instead, the proposed legislation will provide them with a legal right to request to work remotely from their employer.

What exactly does the bill propose?

To have the right to request remote working, the bill proposes that the employee must have 6 months continuous service with the employer. The employee must give a written request with the following details:

  • Proposed remote working location
  • Proposed start date for the remote working arrangement
  • Proposed number, and timing, of working days to be worked remotely
  • Whether the employee has previously made a request under this Act and the date of the most recent previous request
  • A self-assessment of the suitability for the proposed remote working location regarding specific requirements for carrying out the job such as data protection and confidentiality, minimum levels of internet connectivity, ergonomic suitability of the proposed workspace and other furniture requirements

The employee may also be required to give further information and evidence about the remote working location, if the employer requests it.

Once the request has been made, the employer must reply with a decision within a “reasonable time period”. The employer will have 12 weeks from receipt of the request to reply and the employer can approve the request wholly or partially and they can decline the request. The employer can also counter offer the employee’s request which the employee will have one month to accept or refuse.

The legislation outlines 13 potential reasons for an employer to decline a remote working request. They include:

  1. The Nature of the work not allowing for the work to be done remotely
  2. Cannot reorganise work among existing staff
  3. Potential Negative impact on quality of business product or service
  4. Potential Negative impact on performance of employee or other employees
  5. Burden of Additional Costs, taking into account the financial and other costs entailed and the scale and financial resources of the employer’s business
  6. Concerns for the protection of business confidentiality or intellectual property
  7. Concerns for the suitability of the proposed workspace on health and safety grounds
  8. Concerns for the suitability of the proposed workspace on data protection grounds
  9. Concerns for the internet connectivity of the proposed remote working location
  10. Concerns for the commute between the proposed remote working location and employer’s on-site location
  11. The proposed remote working arrangement conflicts with the provisions of an applicable collective agreement
  12. Planned structural changes would render any of (a) to (k) applicable
  13. Employee is the subject of ongoing or recently concluded formal disciplinary process
Interested in a ready to use Hybrid Working policy? Book a demo of Bright Contracts to see how we can help your business today.

If the employer declines the request to remote working, the employee is entitled to appeal the decision. They can appeal this decision either through an internal appeal process or through the Workplace Relations Commission, or both. The presumption is that an employer should aim to facilitate remote working where possible but if they are to decline the request reasonable justification must be given. Under this bill employees will be able to submit another request, however it must be 12 weeks after the initial request. Varadkar believes that “we’re not going to see loads of cases going to WRC or going to court...and that the vast majority of employers are going to want to facilitate remote working.”

Varadkar also stated that a requirement of this strategy will be that all employers must have a Work from Home (WFH) Policy in place therefore we would suggest to employers that in advance of this strategy being written into law they must get Working from Home policies in place which our sister product Bright Contracts already has in place in its software. Download a trial version of the software to have a look at what a WFH policy should include.

More about the proposed Right to Request Remote Work Bill can be read here. Interested in a ready to use Hybrid Working and Working from Home policy?

Book a demo of Bright Contracts, our HR Software to see how Bright Contracts can help your business today.

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