The Department for Enterprise, Trade and Employment (DETE) has set out its plan for embedding remote working in the Irish workplace post-pandemic in its National Remote Work Strategy (Strategy). The document outlines changes that will be made to the employment law landscape, including the introduction of a right to request remote working and a new code of practice on the right to disconnect. DETE says that it aims to harness the benefits of remote working and to mitigate any potential negative impacts.
The first of the Strategy's three pillars is likely to be of most interest to HR and employment law practitioners. This pillar explains how the government will create a regulatory environment that is conducive to remote working. Pillars two and three focus on the required infrastructure and public policy goals respectively.
A right to request remote working will be put into legislation in the third quarter of 2021. The government is required to legislate in this area under the EU Directive on Work Life Balance, which requires Member States to give parents and carers the right to request flexible working. The new domestic legislation is likely to set out a framework for making and responding to requests.
Meanwhile, the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) has been tasked with preparing a code of practice on the right to disconnect (Code). The Code is expected to be published in the first quarter of 2021. The purpose of the Code is to help employees preserve a distinction between their home and work lives, which is a boundary that is easily blurred when the home becomes the workplace. The WRC and courts will interpret an employer's existing obligations under the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997 in light of the guidance in the Code.
In the future, changes may be made to health and safety guidance and tax arrangements that apply to remote working. For now, DETE's Strategy document does not contain detailed proposals.
Employers will need to factor these employment law developments into their workforce plans for when the current public health crisis subsides. Employers should ensure that they have appropriate flexible working policies and procedures in place.
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