Remote work bills are ‘stacked in favor of the employer at every turn’, a Dáil committee will say today.
Atricia King, general secretary of the Irish Trades Union Congress, is set to say a new bill giving workers the legal right to request remote work is fatally flawed.
She will say it’s totally useless if it doesn’t allow workers to appeal an employer’s decision to deny their claim to the Workplace Relations Board.
In her opening statement to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Business, Commerce and Employment this morning, she will say employers are reluctant to implement remote work policies until legislation is enacted .
She will say that “fit for purpose” legislation should be enacted without delay to ensure that “the gains of remote working are not lost”.
While most jobs require a physical presence in the workplace, she will say one in four employees worked from home during the first lockdown.
Remote work has now entered the mainstream of workplace issues, she will say.
Employees in Ireland have always had the right to request to work remotely, but do not have the right to have their request properly considered or to appeal a decision, Ms King will tell the committee.
“For the vast majority of these workers and their employers, this was their first experience working remotely and although it was difficult for some, it turned out to be a success overall and there now has a strong demand to make this temporary arrangement permanent.”
She will say the legislation would bring the country in line with most EU states, the UK, Australia and New Zealand.
Ms King will note that the UK government is carrying out a review of its right to seek remote working legislation, as the proportion of employees not doing any form of flexible working has fallen by just 4%, from 74% at 70%.
Meanwhile, employer representatives say the proposal to create a criminal offense for failing to have a remote working policy should be removed from the bill.
In a brief to the committee, Ibec says this mandatory requirement is based on an erroneous assumption that legislation can define a one-size-fits-all approach.
He says the burden of many remote work costs will fall on employers.
As a result, he calls on the government to put in place “appropriate supports” in line with the rollout of the legislation.
Ibec says legislating at this stage is “premature” and could hamper the management of remote work “in a creative and flexible way”.
He says guidance on best practices in the form of a code of practice would provide a more nimble and flexible way to approach this whole area.
The organization welcomes the broad grounds under which companies can consider staff applications.
This raises concerns about the ability to adequately record employee hours when working remotely.
Ibec would like more information on employers’ obligations to provide a safe workplace and clarification from the Health and Safety Authority on carrying out risk assessments in workers’ homes.