On Tuesday 25th January 2022, a new bill was proposed by the Government that gives employees across Ireland the right to request remote working. Leo Varadkar stated “I want workers to be able to work from home or remotely or hybrid if they want to. So long as the business gets done and services are provided, employers should facilitate it”.
For the first time, The Right to Request Remote Working Bill 2021 will provide a legal framework around which requesting, approving or refusing a request for remote work can be based. All employers must provide a written statement which establishes the organisations’ 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.
Under the draft legislation, there are 13 reasons that allow an employer to refuse the request for remote work:
- If the nature of the work does not allow for it to be done remotely;
- If the employer cannot reorganise work among existing staff;
- Where there is a potential negative impact on work quality;
- If there is a potential negative impact on performance;
- In cases where the employer has planned structural changes;
- When there is a burden from additional costs, taking into account the financial and other costs entailed and the scale and financial resources of the employer’s business;
- Where there are concerns about the protection of business confidentiality or intellectual property;
- In instances where there are concerns about the suitability of the proposed workspace on health and safety grounds;
- If there are concerns about the suitability of the proposed workspace on data protection grounds;
- When there are concerns over the internet connectivity of the proposed remote working location;
- If there is an 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;
- In cases where there is an ongoing or recently concluded formal disciplinary processes.
If the employer is refusing a request under the above 13 conditions, it must be for a specified and “good” reason. Any refusal by an employer to facilitate an employee can be appealed to the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC).
Additionally, it was revealed that an employee of six months standing will be able to apply for remote working. The employer must then reply to the request within 12 weeks. The legislation is hoped to be published by Easter, and passed by the Oireachtas for the summer recess.