Employees to have right to request remote work before end of 2021

The Government has launched ‘Making Remote Work’, the country’s new National Remote Work Strategy. The strategy’s stated objective is to ensure that remote working is a permanent feature in the Irish workplace in a way that maximises economic, social and environmental benefits.

 

From an employer’s perspective, the introduction of an employee right to request remote working will be of most interest. The legislation underpinning this new employee right is expected to be in place by the end of September. While employees will have the right to request remote working arrangements, it is not an absolute right and employers may refuse a request provided they have a justifiable reason for doing so. However, employees will have the right to bring a case to the Workplace Relations Commission if they are not satisfied with the employer’s reason for the refusal. The Workplace Relations Commission is also developing a Code of Practice on the Right to Disconnect that will be admissible in disputes and adjudications. 

 

The remote work strategy announcement confirms that Government policy is now strongly directed towards making remote, blended and flexible working arrangements a much more significant part of working life after COVID-19. Although the pandemic has provided many employers with an opportunity to trial remote working, there are productivity and other associated costs that employers suffer. Remote work raises health and safety challenges which will also attract further employer-side costs. After a challenging year for the SME sector, the timing of this fundamental employment law update will likely be questioned by employers as it introduces an extra layer of remote work compliance that will be an unwanted distraction from the goal of returning to profitability post-pandemic. 

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