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01st Apr 2023

New remote working law passed by government despite employer concerns

Rory Fleming

The bill will see workers gain the right to request remote working from employers.

New legislation has this week been passed by the two Houses of the Oireachtas, which will see workers be able to request remote working, with employers obligated to take the request under consideration.

The newly-passed law is entitled the ‘Work Life Balance Bill’, and has been in the offing for over 14 months since its first iteration was announced by the government back in January of 2022.

That initial announcement, which proposed the ‘Right to Request Remote Working Bill’, was met with fierce criticism by both unions and employers.

The original bill announced by government 14 months ago has been merged into new legislation. (Credit: Rolling News)

Unions argued that the bill did not go far enough for securing the right to remote working, stating that the grounds for refusal were too broad and in favour of the employer.

Meanwhile, employers argued that the bill would see a rise in administrative costs for businesses who were only just beginning to recover from the economic hardship caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The original ‘Right to Request Remote Working Bill’ included 13 grounds for refusal from employers, such as potential negative impact on performance and the burden of additional costs, which saw the bill labelled as “fatally flawed” by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU).

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions labelled the original bill as “fatally flawed”. (Credit: Rolling News)

Meeting employers and employees halfway:

In an attempt to assuage the fears of both employers and employees, the government ultimately scrapped the ‘Right to Request Remote Working Bill’, and instead merged it with the ‘Work Life Balance Bill’ which was further along the legislative process.

Many of the grounds for refusing the right to remote working were removed, in favour of developing a more flexible Code of Practice which would consider the needs of both the employer and employee.

The employer will be legally obligated to consider any request to remote working from an employee in a balanced and fair manner.

Complaints on behalf of the employee can also be brought to the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC), in cases where an employer has not complied with the agreed upon Code of Practice.

Working from home has become a much-desired option since the Covid-19 Pandemic. (Credit: iStock)

Following the signing of the bill into law by President Michael D. Higgins, the next hurdle in the process will be for the WRC to publish this newly-established Code of Practice.

The Code of Practice will set out how employers can best consider and manage remote and flexible working requests made by their employees.

Trade unions, employer representative bodies and the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission will all be involved in the drafting of the new code, which could be completed in a matter of months according to the ICTU.

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