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Remote Strategy Work-from-home laws to create ‘whole new world’ for employees

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Tánaiste Leo Varadkar published Ireland’s first National Remote Work Strategy yesterday. Photo: Julien Behal

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar published Ireland’s first National Remote Work Strategy yesterday. Photo: Julien Behal

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar published Ireland’s first National Remote Work Strategy yesterday. Photo: Julien Behal

New laws empowering staff to work from home are set to revolutionise the landscape for employees forever in this country.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar published Ireland’s first National Remote Work Strategy yesterday to make remote working a permanent option for life after the Covid-19 pandemic.

Under the radical plan, home and remote working is set to become the norm for 20pc of public-sector employees, spelling the death knell of the traditional 9-to-5 office-based job for tens of thousands of people across the country.

The rights of employees to request remote working will be underpinned by legislation and, separately, there will be a code of conduct introduced on the right to disconnect and switch off from engaging with emails or other messages
during non-work hours.

In addition, an acceleration of the National Broadband Plan is being explored “in parallel with the measure required to mitigate delays arising as a result of Covid-19”.

There will also be an investment in remote work hubs, ensuring they are in locations that suit commuters and are close to childcare facilities.

The report noted: “The presence of remote working hubs with high-speed broadband could facilitate many to work locally and result in increased regional employment and lower carbon emissions”. Launching the new strategy, Mr Varadkar said: "The requirement to work from home, where possible for reasons of public health, has demonstrated how viable home, remote and blended work can be. Post-pandemic, I want remote working to be part of a whole new world and this Government strategy sets out how we will enable it."

He added: “We want remote, blended and flexible working arrangements” to be a much bigger part of life after Covid.

"We’ve seen that there can be huge benefits – more flexibility, less commuting, more time for family and friends. It’s better for the transport emissions and for quality of life, but it has to be done right.

"Employment rights need to be updated, we need to give guidance, and in many cases, we need to provide actual physical working space.” The report stated: “Currently in Ireland, all employees can request the right to remote work from their employers, but there is no legal framework around which a request can be framed. Introducing legislation on this topic will provide employees a framework around which such a request could be based.

"Equally, it could provide clarity to employers on best practice on dealing with such requests.”

Meanwhile, the Programme for Government has committed that public-sector employers, colleges and other bodies move to 20pc home and remote working in 2021.

However, the report cautioned: “While the 20pc target is an average across the civil and public service, it is acknowledged that some sectors are more amenable to remote work. Achieving 20pc in certain sectors of the public and civil service (such as in the health sector where the vast majority of workers are frontline staff) poses practical and other issues.

"This could have very serious impacts on service delivery to the public and will need to be carefully managed to ensure that there are no negative impacts.”

In relation to concerns about the costs of working from home, the report said that the Department of Finance would review tax arrangements for remote working for employers and employees “and assess the merits of further enhancements”.

Another component of the new strategy is to promote ‘blended’ working, allowing people to choose when they work and where they work.

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