Ireland plans to introduce new legislation that allows employees to request remote work.
Tánaiste Leo Varadkar, the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, published Ireland’s first National Remote Work Strategy to mandate remote working a right for people.
Under the new rules that will be introduced later this year, employees will have the right to disconnect from work – covering phone calls, emails and switch-off time after working hours, and whenever there are breaches the cases can be appealed.
Leo Varadkar said: “The Code of Practice comes into effect immediately and applies to all types of employment, whether you are working remotely or not.
“It will help employees, no matter what their job is, to strike a better work-life balance and switch off from work outside of their normal working hours.”
The government will also promote hybrid working – allowing people more flexibility to choose when they work and where they work.
The government will also explore the possibility of accelerating the rollout of the National Broadband Plan.
Varadkar said that the right to work from home was an option that many employers offered, but there was no legal obligation on their part to do so.“If somebody has the right to request remote working, the onus is on the employer to either say yes or explain why not and they would have to give reasons,” he said, adding that these reasons could be challenged in the Workplace Relations Commission.
The government is also reviewing the tax laws covering remote work. Under current tax rules, an employee can receive €3.20 per day from their employer while working at home – which is meant to help cover the cost of electricity, internet and other utilities used.
“But it’s intended to that as part of the budget package in October, there’ll be a new package of tax incentives and expenses to encourage people to work from home,” Varadkar said.
“So you’ll see improvements there in what’s currently in place,” he added.
There are plans to mandate that home and remote working should be the norm for 20% of public sector employees.
An implementation group will be set up to oversee the progress of the plans. It is hoped that the rules will be ready to be put in place within the next four months.
The pandemic has extracted terrible health and economic toll on people’s livelihood. With many forced to work from home, the lines between home and work life got blurred and people felt compelled to attend work calls at all hours.
Speaking to reporters, Varadkar said that he believes the changes can be implemented within this year itself.
“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.”
However, if working at home is to continue, Varadkar says employment rights will need to be updated.
The Tánaiste referred to surveys that indicated that about 10% or 20% of employees were keen to get back to the office, whereas another 10% to 20% would like to continue work from home permanently. The survey also found out that a majority wanted a blended way of working where people could spend some days of the week in the office and rest work from home or from a remote hub that is convenient.