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As of April 1 st, 2021, all employees in Ireland officially have the Right to Disconnect from work after Tánaiste Leo Varadkar TD introduced a new Code of Practice.

This is part of the Irish Government’s plan to create more flexible family friendly working arrangements, including remote working and working more flexible hours. So, what does this mean in practice, and how does it affect employers?

Right to Disconnect

The Right to Disconnect gives employees the right to switch off from work outside of normal working hours, including the right to not respond immediately to emails, telephone calls, or other messages. There are three rights enshrined in the Code which came into effect on April 1 st :

  • The right of an employee to not have to routinely perform work outside their normal working hours
  • The right not to be penalised for refusing to attend to work matters outside of normal working hours
  • The duty to respect another person’s right to disconnect (for example: by not routinely emailing or calling outside normal working hours)

This new Code of Practice comes into immediate effect and applies to all types of employment, whether employees are working remotely or not. The Code was developed by the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) and if issues arise, employees have the right to raise the matter with the WRC. The publication of the Code of Practice provides practical guidance on the right to disconnect. It will ensure that both employers and employees are aware of their requirements and entitlements and understand how they apply to them.

Right to request Remote Working

Currently, in Ireland, all employees can ask their employers for the right to work remotely, but there is no legal framework around which a request can be made and how it should be dealt with by the employer. The Government intends to introduce legislation for an employee’s right to request to work remotely. The anticipated legislation, which is expected in Q3 of 2021, will provide a legal framework around which requests from employees to work remotely can be addressed, providing clarity for employers and employees alike. Currently, employees “in theory” have the right to request working from home already, but it is not the same as a legal right to request. Once the legislation is introduced, if somebody has the right to request remote working, the onus is on the employer to either say yes or explain why not and explain the reasons. These reasons could be challenged in the WRC.

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