The National Remote Work Strategy
The Government recently published the National Remote Work Strategy. The Strategy’s objective is to ensure that remote working is a permanent feature in the Irish workplace in a way that maximises economic, social and environmental benefits. The Strategy is planned legislation giving employees the right to request remote working and provides for the introduction of a legally admissible Code of Practice on the right to disconnect from work.
The National Remote Work Strategy objectives are:
• Creating a conducive environment for the adoption of remote working
• To Develop and leverage a remote working infrastructure to support the maintenance of working remotely
• Building a remote working framework that maximises the advantages of working remotely.
The move towards the strategy follows research carried out Amarách Research for the trade union, Fórsa, found that 86 per cent of respondents were interested in working remotely. Over 80 per cent of those who favour home working expressed a preference for a mixed arrangement of blending time worked remotely and in the workplace.
The Main Actions of the Strategy are as follows:
• Mandating that home and remote work should be the norm for 20 percent of public sector Employment
• Reviewing the treatment of remote working for the purposes of tax and expenditure in the next Budget
• Mapping and investing in a network of remote working hubs across Ireland
• Legislating for the right to request remote working
• Developing a code of practice for the right to disconnect
• Doing what we can to accelerate the provision of high-speed broadband to all parts of Ireland
Right to request remote working
The plan is to put in place legislation that will be introduced by September 2021 allowing employees to request the right to request working remotely. The legislation will provide a framework for handling these requests. Employers are not obliged to agree to all requests, but it is likely that they will have to provide objective reasons justifying any refusals. Currently, there is no obstacle to employees requesting to work from home. However, the planned legislation will provide a framework which aims to strengthen an employee’s right to request long term remote working.
Right to disconnect
The Strategy also promises a “legally admissible” Code of Practice on an employee’s “right to disconnect” from responding to phone calls or emails outside their standard working hours. While it is envisaged that adhering to the Code will not be a strict legal requirement, in the event of complaints in terms of working hours, the Workplace Relations Commission will certainly consider the provisions of the Code when dealing with a complaint. The Code of Practice is expected to be introduced in the first quarter of 2021.
The Strategy is looking to significantly invest in remote work hubs in geographic locations which ensure that they are located suitably for commuters and close to childcare facilities.
The Tax Strategy Group will review the treatment of remote working for tax and expenditure purposes before the next budget.
National Broadband Plan
The Strategy is also exploring the acceleration of the roll out of the National Broadband Plan to accommodate the technology which enables remote working.