Employees’ rights to request remote work are expected to be strengthened following a review of the new bills by the department of Tánaiste Leo Varadkar.
he Irish Independent learned that key elements of the upcoming work from home legislation, drawn up earlier this year, are being revised.
Employers may have less reason to refuse work from home applications once the Department of Enterprise has finalized the proposals.
In addition, a worker’s right to appeal the decision to the Workplace Relations Commission should also be strengthened.
Other changes being considered include reducing the amount of service a worker must have accumulated before they can submit a claim.
The original draft said a worker should have 26 weeks in a job, but now that could be changed to 12 weeks of service or even less.
The Right to Request Remote Work Bill is expected to be published before Mr Varadkar resumes his duties as Taoiseach in December. It is due to come into force next year.
Mr Varadkar said the proposed legislation “deviates quite a bit” from the original outline.
Former Irish Trades Union Congress general secretary Patricia King said the bill had been “stacked in favor of the employer at every turn”.
Working from home has become the norm for nearly a million workers during the pandemic.
According to the initial proposals, an employer can refuse a request to work from home on 13 grounds.
These include the fact that the nature of the work does not allow it to be done remotely, a potential negative impact on performance, planned structural changes, the burden of additional costs and concerns about the adequacy and connectivity of the proposed workspace.
The original proposal allowed workers to appeal if an employer failed to follow proper procedures when refusing, but not to appeal the reason why they refused.
The Joint Committee for Business, Commerce and Employment said in a report in July that the grounds for refusal were “heavy and required change”. He noted that the number of grounds employers had for refusing a claim in similar legislation across Europe ranged from five to eight. He said he was concerned that “very insignificant cost issues could be offered” as part of a refusal on commercial grounds. She added that an unreasonable refusal should be open to challenge.
The committee recommended that remote work include hybrid and flexible working.
The Ibec group of companies called for a code of practice rather than legislation.
A department spokesperson said officials are “now working to advance the legislation with the recommendations of the Joint Committee of the Oireachtas in mind.”
She said it was one of five new workers’ rights Mr Varadkar had prioritized during his time as minister.
“It remains the intention that the bill be published later this year and move through the Oireachtas as quickly as possible,” she said.
“The right to request a remote working bill is part of a broader government vision to make remote working a permanent feature of the Irish workforce in a way that can benefit everyone. all economically, socially and environmentally.”
She added that the bill would for the first time provide a legal framework on which the request, approval or denial of a request for remote work could be based.
13 Reasons in a Bill Employers Could Use to Reject a Remote Work Request
- The nature of the work
- Unable to reorganize staff work
- Impact on quality
- Performance impact
- Planned structural changes
- Burden of additional costs
- Privacy issues
- Concerns about the suitability of the workspace
- Data protection issues
- Web connectivity issues
- An inordinate distance between the remote location and the onsite location
- Conflict with a collective agreement
- Disciplinary procedures