Remote working here to stay?
The two years of the Covid pandemic changed many aspects of our day to day lives. One of the most striking features of Covid was the introduction of a heretofore unheard-of concept to many employers namely remote working.
The Government have recently published a right to request working bill which in due course will be legislated through the Oireachtas.
We thought it would be useful to set out some of the main principles underpinning the main Bill.
The first point to be aware of is that the bill does not enshrine for employees a general right to work remotely. Employees will be given the right to request to work remotely either full time or part time.
In making a request employees must specify various details:
- Assessment exercise in relation to suitability of their remote working arrangements
- Data protection/confidentiality issues
- Internet connection
- Ergonomic suitability
- Cost of supply of equipment
In order for an employee to be able to exercise their right to request remote working they must be in employment with their employer for a minimum of six months.
Once the request has been made the employer has 12 weeks to respond and must give reasons for refusal.
The Bill does not provide for an appeal process.
If an employer refuses a remote working request, then an employee cannot make a further request for a period of 12 months.
All employers must have a remote working policy. The government is due to publish a Code of Practice in this regard.
What are the likely reasons for employers to refuse a request for remote working?
- The nature of the work may not be suitable for remote working
- The possible impact on the quality of work
- The possible impact on performance
- Structural changes within the organisation
- Confidentiality/data protection issues
- Internet connection
- Remote working for certain individuals may amount to a breach of a collective agreement negotiated with a Credit Union
- Where an employee is going through or has recently gone through a form of a disciplinary process
Conventional wisdom at this stage suggests that if employers are going to reject a remote working request outright that they would need to be able to demonstrate that there is likely to be a dis-improvement in the company’s financial performance or the particular department which the employee is working.
While there is no appeal provided for in the legislation to the WRC for refusal, a complaint to the WRC can be made if there has been a refusal to respond to a request, a refusal to give reasons or if the employer has incorrectly deemed the request withdrawn.
It may well be that there will be changes to the proposed legislation by the time the act is passed but it would appear that remote working is here to stay and that most employers would need to deal with this.
For any employment related queries do not hesitate to contact Brendan Dillon or Conor O’Kelly on 012960666.