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24 May 2022

EXPLAINER: What the remote working law and when can your boss can say no to home working

Tánaiste reminds employers and employees that they should Work from Home whenever possible

Does my insurance cover me to work from home?

Details of new law giving workers the right to request remote working that will allow them do their job at home also set out the reasons why an employer may, having given the application due consideration, decline a request for remote working.

Under the new Right to Request Remote Work Bill 2021, The Enterprise, Trade and Employment rules say bosses must state the reasonable business grounds for so doing which may include but are not limited to:

  • The nature of the work not allowing for the work to be done remotely
  • Cannot reorganise work among existing staff
  • Potential negative impact on quality
  • Potential negative impact on performance
  • Planned structural changes
  • Burden of additional costs, taking into account the financial and other costs entailed and the scale and financial resources of the employer’s business
  • Concerns re the protection of business confidentiality or intellectual property
  • Concerns re the suitability of the proposed workspace on health and safety grounds
  • Concerns re the suitability of the proposed workspace on data protection grounds
  • Concerns re the internet connectivity of the proposed remote working location
  • Inordinate distance between the proposed remote location and on-site location
  • if the proposed remote working arrangement conflicts with the provisions of an applicable collective agreement
  • Ongoing or recently concluded formal disciplinary processes.

A statement from the department said the Right to Request Remote Working Bill 2021 will, for the first time, provide a legal framework around which requesting, approving or refusing a request for remote work can be based.

It said all workplaces must have a written statement which sets out the company’s Remote Working Policy, specifying the manner in which remote working requests are managed and the conditions which will apply to remote working generally within the organisation.

Where the employer has diligently completed the assessment process and any appeal has been heard, the employee will have to wait a period of 12 months to submit another request, provided they are in the same role. If an employee moves to a new role within the company, they may submit a fresh request.

The Department adds that the new law provides for a time-limit for an employer to return a decision in relation to a request from an employee. The employer can set out their own specific time limit but it must not be more than 12 weeks.

An employee will be eligible to submit a request once they have worked for their employer for a period of six months. However, an employer is free to offer remote work from day one if desired.

There will be a right of appeal to the Workplace Relations Commission where an employer has failed to respond to a request or to provide any reasonable grounds for refusal of a request for remote working and protections for employees from penalisation for having exercised their entitlement to request remote working.

The Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Leo Varadkar published details of a new law which a statement said will give employees the right to request remote working, as part of his plans to make better terms and conditions for workers a legacy of the pandemic.

“Up until now, remote and home working has been imposed on a lot of people due to the public health restrictions.  Now that they have been lifted, I want it to be a choice.  I want workers to be able to work from home or remotely or hybrid if they want to. So long as the business get done and services are provided, employers should facilitate it.

“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. The world of work has changed and I know many would like to retain some amount of remote working once Covid is behind us.

“This new law will give every employee the right to request remote working from their employer. 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.

“It will give employers and workers legal clarity on remote working, which became the default for many during the pandemic,” said Mr Varadkar.

The Tánaiste concluded.

“We have a real opportunity now to change the norm and learn what we can from the pandemic. This new right is in addition to the right to disconnect, our investment in remote working hubs across the country and our changes to the treatment of home working costs through Budget 2022,” he said.

His Department said the General Scheme has been developed following consultation with employer groups, employee representative groups and the public.

The General Scheme and the Regulatory Impact Assessment are available at Right to Request Remote Work Bill 2021

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