Some Resistance to Getting Employees to Work from the Office!

28th November 2022

Posted In: FYI

With almost all companies (97%) having adopted a hybrid workplace, over 50% of HR and employment professionals say they are experiencing small pockets of resistance in getting their employees to work from their offices. That’s according to a recent HR and Employment survey from Eversheds Sutherland, Ireland’s largest and most-established global law firm.

HR and employment professionals surveyed say the biggest challenges facing their organisations are retention (28%), higher salary requests (28%), and recruitment difficulties (25%). Somewhat reassuringly, 41% said they do not think their organisation may be forced to implement redundancies in the next 12 months but 27% said they may be.

Also, the areas of day-to-day employment law causing the most concerns for HR and employment executives are poor performance reviews (61%), illness absences (47%), and grievances (44%).

The survey findings were revealed at the global law firm’s annual employment law evening held last week which included a review of all the HR developments in 2022, a look at the year ahead, and an introduction to the Metaverse (the vision for the future of the internet – an integrated network that uses 3D virtual reality tech) with Marie McGinley, Partner and International Head of Technology at Eversheds Sutherland.

The other key findings are:

•89% pay their employees if they are on sick leave

•50% have a formal remote/flexible working policy in place whereas 39% are flexible/remote working with no policy in place

•51% say their employees typically work from the office 1 – 2 days per week; 48% say their employees typically work from the office 3 days per week

•77% have restrictions set on where employees can work – 8% can work within a set radius of the office, over a third (36%) can only work within Ireland and 33% can only work in approved jurisdictions.

Joanne Hyde and Julie Galbraith (pictured l-r), Partners, Employment Law at Eversheds Sutherland LLP said: “Every day we support employers in Ireland ranging from the US multinationals to smaller Irish businesses servicing Irish consumers. Given the recent tech redundancies, it would be easy to think that redundancy is the biggest issue among HR and employment professionals. However, what is clear from the survey is that

HR and employment professionals are dealing with a significant change to the balance of power that has been mounting over the last two years, where issues such as the right to request remote working, work-life balance and even whistleblowing are now top of minds for Irish employers.

“Employees in Ireland have benefited from this change to the balance of power.

Recruitment of top talent has never been more difficult; employees have been able to command higher salaries and influence where and when they will work.

This has been the longest period of employee power that we have experienced in recent years as specialist employment solicitors. And, when the balance of power begins to move back to the employer, this will have a knock-on impact on the employment market in Ireland, particularly on employment legislation coming down the track.

“For example, the Government is currently re-drafting the Right to Request Remote Working Bill 2022. Initially, it gave employers 13 reasons to prevent remote working. This was felt by general society to be too pro-employer but that was six months ago when employees were able to make more demands. As the recruitment challenges ease, employers are more likely to require employees to return to the office as they will be less afraid of employees leaving, and this may alleviate some of the resistance employers are feeling when it comes to getting employees to work from the office. Equally, the Right to Request Flexible Working Bill 2022 may have limited impact when enacted if employees are afraid to be seen working from home too often.

“In addition, the discussions in the room focused on the challenges faced when requiring employees to return for even one or two days to work from the office. We were asked at what point is it appropriate to remind employees of their contractual physical place of work. There was also significant interest in changes to collective bargaining rules in Ireland where proposed legislation would require employers to meet and engage with trade unions.