Government's legislation on right to work remotely 'doesn't go far enough', says Cork TD

Employers will have to justify their reasoning if the decision is appealed
Government's legislation on right to work remotely 'doesn't go far enough', says Cork TD

Under the draft legislation, published yesterday, employers will have at least 13 grounds to refuse such a request and will have three months to make their decision.

NEW plans drafted by Government to grant employees the right to ask employers to work remotely have been met with mixed reaction.

Under the draft legislation, published yesterday, employers will have at least 13 grounds to refuse such a request and will have three months to make their decision.

However, employers will have to justify their reasoning if the decision is appealed.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar unveiled the Right to Request Remote Working Bill 2021 yesterday after it was approved by Cabinet.

“I know throughout the pandemic, many employers have gone to great lengths to give their employees as much flexibility around where they work as possible. We want this to continue," Mr Varadkar said.

“Employers will be required to provide reasonable grounds for refusing to facilitate an employees’ request. These grounds are set out in the legislation and we will develop Codes of Practice to provide guidance to help employers implement the new law.” 

The grounds include concerns over internet connectivity or the protection of business confidentiality, an inordinate distance between the proposed remote location and on-site location, a potential negative impact on performance, and if the nature of a person’s work does not allow for them to work remotely, If a request is rejected, an employee can appeal the decision through an internal appeals mechanism and then the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC).

The Bill also states that workplaces must have a written statement that sets out the company’s Remote Working Policy, specifying the manner in which remote working requests are managed.

Reactions to the bill have been mixed, with some saying that there should be a legal right to work remotely.

'WORKERS SHOULD HAVE LEGAL RIGHT'

Speaking with The Echo, Cork North Central TD Mick Barry said: “The Government's plan for a 'right to ask’ does not go far enough. Workers should have the legal right to work remotely.” 

Mr Barry added that if such legislation was drafted to give employees the right to work remotely, he believes it would need to address issues of discrimination.

“Those who exercise any right to work remotely should not be discriminated against in any sense in terms of pay, career path, and so on,” he said.

“Nor should the State use remote working rights as an excuse to absolve itself of its responsibilities with regards to providing affordable childcare.” 

Meanwhile, Ibec, the group that represents Irish business, welcomed the news with reservations.

“While we will need to see the detailed Bill once published, we welcome the broad grounds included in the draft Scheme under which businesses may consider applications for remote working,” said Ibec’s Director of Employer Relations, Maeve McElwee.

“Businesses, however, are concerned by the proposed new requirement for all employers, regardless of size or sector, to put in place a formal remote working policy.”

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