26 September 2023

IRELAND: Work-from-home law, a ‘toothless tiger’

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Irish legislation aimed at regulating the rights of employees to request remote working in the future has been described as a “toothless tiger” that has wreaked angst and confusion.

The Right to Request Remote Work Bill 2021 is currently being considered by an Oireachtas (Parliamentary) Committee.

General Secretary of the Association of Higher Civil and Public Servants, Ciaran Rohan said the provisions of the Bill allowed too much opportunity for employers to say no, “but it’s probably the case that that will be a bigger issue outside the Public Service”.

Mr Rohan, whose Association represents 3,500 senior Public Servants, said the policy was coming from Government “so it would be unusual for the Government to turn around to its own employees and say ‘it’s not for you’, or make it difficult to have it”.

Having spoken with Secretaries General of Government Departments, Mr Rohan predicted a “seismic” change in the way Ireland worked in future, reducing often “horrendous commutes” for many workers.

He estimated that about 60 to 70 per cent of senior Public Servants would opt for a blended model, splitting work between the home and office.

With fewer people going in to work on any given day, Mr Rohan predicted that the public sector would need only about 40 per cent of the office space compared with pre-pandemic needs.

“That means huge efficiencies for the Government,” Mr Rohan said.

“The biggest client for commercial property in Dublin is the Office of Public Works.

“They won’t need as many buildings and, as leases come up for buildings, they probably won’t renew them,” he said.

Chair of the joint Oireachtas Committee on Enterprise, Trade and Employment, which is considering the Bill, Maurice Quinlivan said there were “huge concerns about clauses that allowed employers to refuse the right to work from home”.

“I firmly believe workers are more productive with hybrid arrangements, so employers shouldn’t be allowed to refuse that unless they have a really good reason,” Mr Quinlivan said.

Head of Social Policy and Employment Affairs at the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, Laura Bambrick said the legislation as it stood was a toothless tiger that needed to be radically amended.

Dublin, 8 February 2022

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