Right to Request Remote Work for all Workers to be Introduced Through the DCEDIY Work Life Balance Bill
15th November 2022
Last week the government approved the integration of the Right to Request Remote Work for all workers into the Work Life Balance and Miscellaneous Provisions Bill which is expected to be delivered by the end of the year.
The Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise Trade and Employment, Leo Varadkar, and the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Roderic O’Gorman, together agreed that amending the Work Life Balance Bill is the most efficient and practical way to introduce the right to request remote work to all workers.
Welcoming the government decision the Tánaiste said:
“The Right to Request Remote Work is an important item on my agenda to improve workers’ rights and modernise the world of work.
“The benefits of remote working are obvious – less commuting, fewer transport emissions, better quality of life with more time with family and friends.
New job opportunities will be created for people who want to live in rural Ireland, for people with disabilities and for people with caring responsibilities. Smaller towns and villages across Ireland will benefit from new investment, increased footfall and local spend.
“I am pleased that the government and my colleague Minister O’Gorman has agreed to include this important new legal right for all workers in the Work Life Balance Bill which is already well advanced in the Oireachtas. Our collaboration on this legislation shows the commitment across Government to develop fairer, safer and more attractive workplaces.”
Integrating the Right to Request Remote Work for all workers into the Work Life Balance Bill means that employers and employees will now be making and considering requests for flexible or remote working under one piece of legislation and one Code of Practice to be developed by the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC). This will streamline the process and will help avoid inconsistencies and confusion.
Under the new legislation employees will have a legal right to request remote working from their employer. In addition, employers will now be required to have regard to the Code of Practice when considering requests.
The Code of Practice will be established on a statutory footing and, it is expected that this Code will include guidance to employers and employees on their obligations regarding compliance.
Minister O’Gorman said: “The Tánaiste and I have reflected on the recommendations of the Pre-Legislative Scrutiny Reports of both Bills, and input from stakeholders, including observations made in this House, and it is clear that integrating the relevant legislative provisions of the Right to Request Remote Working Bill into the Work Life Balance Bill represents a practical way forward.
“I am conscious that many employers who went to great lengths to accommodate flexible working during the pandemic are now working out the extent to which it can be part of their businesses in the longer term. However, we will keep this legislation under review.
That is why I also intend to introduce a provision in the Bill for the flexible working provisions to be reviewed after two years, including a consideration of extending the entitlement to a right to request flexible working to all employees.”
This new law on the Right to Request Remote Work adds to other workers’ rights that the government is introducing, which include Statutory Sick Pay, a new Public Holiday in February, the Tips Act and the move to a National Living Wage.
The Irish Congress of Trade Unions General Secretary Owen Reidy said: “Integrating these two pieces of legislation will deliver workers a statutory right to request remote working before the end of this year, months ahead of the expected schedule.
He added: “Congress and our affiliate unions welcome the Government commitment, to be written into the Work-Life Balance Bill, to consider extending the right to request all types of flexible working arrangements to all workers, not just remote, after two years of the legislation coming into effect.”
“Unions have been clear that full flexibility for all workers is necessary to close the emerging work-life balance privilege gap between workers who can work remotely and those in jobs requiring a physical presence.
Mr. Reidy said: “I want to acknowledge the collaborative approach taken by the Tánaiste and his officials to resolve the flawed draft legislation and to deliver on his commitment to a new workers’ right to remote working.”
Moira Grassick, COO at Peninsula Ireland, said: “As currently drafted, the Work Life Balance Bill allows for parents of children under 12 and carers to apply for all forms of flexible work including the right to request remote working, reduced working hours, and flexible start and finish times.
“It appears the Government is now considering an amendment to the Work Life Balance Bill that would allow all workers and not just carers to request remote working. If this proposal goes through as expected, all employees will have the legal right to request remote working before the end of the year.
“This recently reported change in direction provides an insight into how the remote working legislation looks likely to develop before the end of the year. The Government has moved to address the perception that the first draft of the remote working legislation was too heavily stacked in favour of the employer.
“The latest approach indicates that the practical impact of the Government’s ‘remote first’ policies is that employers will be expected to grant remote working requests where possible.
“It also seems certain that employers will have fewer prescribed reasons to turn down requests for remote working and employees will also have the right to make a request after 12 weeks’ continuous service rather than 26.
“As it is highly unlikely that all businesses will be able to roll out a generic “one size fits all” remote working policy, each business will need to tailor a remote working policy to the specific needs of its operations.
“While employers don’t need to do anything until the law is finalised, they should be prepared to update handbooks and policies to reflect this upcoming change, which looks set to make remote working more accessible for more employees.