Ireland accelerates modernisation of remote working policy, looking beyond Covid
Pre pandemic, the concept of remote and hybrid models of working were still relatively new in Ireland. Some employers offered an option to work from home a day or two per week, and some employees utilised the opportunity to work remotely when offered. It was not until the Covid-19 pandemic hit in March 2020 last year that businesses across Ireland and much further afield were effectively forced to adapt to, in many cases, the majority of staff working from their homes full time in order to lessen the spread of Covid-19. Thankfully, the availability of video communications tools and virtual work collaboration tools was in abundance, and teams quickly settled into a very different way of working.
How has Ireland adopted remote working?
Essentially, Ireland’s approach to remote working is underpinned by the Making Remote Work policy, its first national remote working strategy published by An Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Leo Varadkar, in January 2021. With over 88% of over 18-year-olds vaccinated in Ireland at present, we are beginning to see a gradual return to normality, which includes the re-opening of offices. However, Varadkar is keen that Ireland continues to utilise the “real opportunity to make remote and blended working a much bigger part of normal working life”.
Since assuming the role of Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Leo Varadkar TD has pushed the remote working agenda and there has been progress on many fronts, including:
1. The Code of Practice on Right to Disconnect – Under the Code, all employees officially have the Right to Disconnect from work and have a better work-life balance. Should any issues arise, employees have the right to raise the matter with the Irish Workplace Relations Commission.
2. Launch of Connected Hubs – Ireland’s first national network of remote working hubs was launched in May via ConnectedHubs.ie and provides the opportunity for workers and employers to embrace a ‘blended working’ model, and to find the balance of hub, home and office working that works best for them. With an aim to have at least 100 hubs on board by the end of 2021, the initiative now has 113 hubs across Ireland and 380 hubs mapped.
3. Public Consultation on the Right to Request remote working – under Pillar 1 of Making Remote Work (Create a Conducive Environment for the adoption of remote work), a commitment was made to legislate in 2021 to provide employees with the right to request remote work. Following the consultation period, Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment published a report on submissions received. A total of 175 submissions were received, most of which came from individual workers. As Varadkar has signalled that it is his intention to push ahead with this legislative proposal in 2021-22, it will be imperative to make sure that the correct balance is struck between enabling employees to request to work from home, whilst also bestowing some powers on the employer to refuse or stipulate in what circumstances an employee may work remotely.
What do these developments mean for employers?
The Irish Government recognise that remote working won’t work for everyone or for every organisation and have committed to adopting a balanced approach to any proposed new legislation. From a public affairs perspective, it will be imperative for employers, where appropriate, to consider Making Remote Work to facilitate remote and blended work options, in so far as possible.
To kick start this process, you can access a pre prepared remote working check list from the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment here.
For more information on Ireland’s Remote Working Policy or to discuss how your organisation can communicate with key stakeholders on its remote working initiatives, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.