Employees Will Have Right to Request Remote Work Under New Legislation
Workers will be given the right to request remote working under new legislation proposed to be introduced in the coming months, reflecting the changing nature of the work environment as the country moves out of the Covid-19 pandemic. On 25 January 2022, Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Leo Varadkar published the Draft Scheme of the Right to Request Remote Working Bill 2022, which will provide a legal framework around which requesting, approving or refusing a request for remote work will be based.
Under the legislation, an employee will be entitled to request remote work after 6 months’ employment. The employer will be obliged to return a decision within 12 weeks of the request being submitted and may only refuse the request where there are ‘reasonable business grounds’ for doing so. The Draft Scheme of the Bill sets out 13 examples of such grounds, regarding the nature of the work, staffing issues and potential impact on work quality and performance, as well as concerns in relation to internet connectivity, data protection and health and safety.
Employers will be required to have a remote working policy in place and codes of practice will be drawn up by the Government to assist employers in implementing the new law.
A key element of the legislation will be the requirement for the employer to adhere to fair procedures in assessing a request for remote working, and the employee will have a right to appeal to the Workplace Relations Commission where there is an issue with the decision-making process.
Members of the opposition have criticised the Bill, expressing the view that it favours the needs of employers. Minister Varadkar has indicated that while an absolute right to remote working will not be introduced, he is open to amendments to the Bill and intends to engage in further discussions with unions and employers.