The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, recently, published its report “Making Remote Work: National Remote Work Strategy” which can be accessed here.
The main objective of this three-pillar strategy is to ensure that remote working is a permanent feature in the Irish workplace in a way that maximises economic, social, and environmental benefits.
- Pillar One: Creating an environment conducive to remote working. It will involve introducing new and revising current legislation to provide for the right to request to work remotely. The strategy envisages the introduction of a code of practice on the right to disconnect and even create financial / taxation incentives to encourage the uptake of remote work.
- Pillar Two: Deliver remote work infrastructure through the development of hubs and the roll-out of the National Broadband plan; and
- Pillar Three: Building a remote work policy and guidance framework.
The strategy outlines the Government’s intention to legislate to allow employees the right to request to remote work. Currently in Ireland, all employees can request to remote work but there is no legal framework around such a request. This is clearly a separate issue from the ongoing public health advice that all those that can work remotely should do so and should be supported in this by their employer. The anticipated legislation, which is expected in Q3 of 2021, will provide a legal framework around which requests from employees to work remotely can be addressed, providing clarity for employers and employees alike.
Additionally, the strategy document refers to the EU Work-Life Balance Directive which came into force in August 2019. This directive is 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. All EU member states have until 2022 to comply with this Directive; when in place, however, the employer will “be able to decide whether to accept or refuse a worker’s request”.
The SFA welcomes the Government’s commitments to invest in necessary infrastructure such as the National Broadband Plan, remote working hubs and alignment with childcare facilities, as well as reviewing tax arrangements to incentivise remote working.
However, to further understand and adapt remote working practices amongst small firms, we believe more detailed guidance including templates and checklists are needed for employers and employees to clear up any misunderstanding about remote working arrangements.
Regarding proposals to introduce legislation to provide employees the right to request remote working, SFA would insist that an SME Test is applied to any such legislation to assess the potential financial and administration impact on Ireland’s small business community. In addition, when drafting this legislation, it must be considered that for some small firms the benefits of remote working isn’t always an option.”
The SFA will continue to make representations on these issues. In the meantime, as we prepare to transition back to the office following the roll out of the vaccination programme, members are advised to introduce a remote working policy, if they have not already done so, or to review their existing policy. See the SFA website for information on remote working policies.