New legislation gives workers the right to ask to work from home

New legislation that gives workers the legal right to request to work from home has been published by the Government.

The National Remote Work Strategy seeks to make remote working a permanent option for life after the coronavirus pandemic.

Currently, all employees can request the right to ask to work remotely from their employers but there is no legal framework around the request.

The Government has also introduced a legally admissible code of practice on the right to disconnect from work which covers phone calls, emails and switch-off time.

The measures are laid out in a strategy published by Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Leo Varadkar.

It will mandate that 20% of public sector employees, colleges and other bodies will be remote working by the end of the year.

The Government has also committed to investing in remote work hubs which are in locations that suit commuters and are close to childcare facilities.

As part of the measures, the Government said that advancements in technology have allowed employees to be constantly accessible – which can create pressure for employees to always be on call.

The report stated that the onset of remote working, as a result of Covid-19, had blurred the boundaries between people’s professional and private lives.

“Whilst the right to disconnect does not just relate to remote work, it is clear that over the course of the Covid-19 restrictions that employees have faced difficulties in switching off from work,” the report added.

In order to ensure that employees are protected from overwork, the Government has asked the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) to draw up a code of practice in this area.

It will be possible to refer to the code of practice in disputes and adjudications.

These actions will be completed over the course of 2021.

An implementation group will be formed to monitor the progress of the actions with meetings being held every four months.

The report also states that remote working can address some of the barriers women face in the workforce.

“A major factor contributing to the under-representation of women in the workplace is the difficulty of balancing paid work and unpaid care work, of which women disproportionately bear the burden,” the report added.

According to OECD statistics, women in Ireland average almost five hours of unpaid work per day.

By comparison men in Ireland average just over two hours of unpaid work per day.

The Government is also to explore the acceleration of the National Broadband Plan to help people remote working.

Mr Varadkar said: “The pandemic has exacted a terrible toll on life and livelihoods in Ireland.

“We all hope and pray for the day when it will be over, not so we can go back to the old normal but rather so we can have a new and better normal incorporating all that we have learned from living our lives and doing business in a very different way.

“The requirement to work from home where possible, for reasons of public health, has demonstrated how viable home, remote and blended working can be.

“Post-pandemic, I want remote working to be part of a whole new world of work and this new Government strategy sets out how we will enable it.”