What does the new working from home legislation mean for you?
The Right to Request Remote Working Bill 2021 will, for the first time, provide a legal framework around which a request for remote work can be based.
Almost two years into a pandemic, and most of us have become pretty adept at working from home. However, as restrictions ease and the world slowly starts to get back to normal, the prospect of returning to the office becomes more likely too.
While many people are keen to get to the workplace, others have settled into their new routines of working from home, but there’s good news for those who favour the latter as Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Leo Varadkar last week published details of a new law that will give workers the right to request remote working going forward.
Under the new draft legislation, all employers will need to have a written policy on working from home – one that sets out how remote working requests are managed and the conditions that will apply to remote working generally within the business.
“Up until now, remote and home working has been imposed on a lot of people due to the public health restrictions. Now that they have been lifted, I want it to be a choice,” Varadker commented. “I want workers to be able to work from home or remotely or hybrid if they want to. So long as the business gets done and services are provided, employers should facilitate it.
“I know throughout the pandemic, many employers have gone to great lengths to give their employees as much flexibility around where they work as possible. We want this to continue. The world of work has changed and I know many would like to retain some amount of remote working once Covid is behind us,” he continued.
So, what does this mean for you?
In a nutshell, the new legislation means that you will have the right to request remote working from your employer – be that on a permanent or temporary (i.e. blended/hybrid) basis. It also means that there will be a legal framework in place to assist such requests.
According to the new law, employees who have worked for their employer for a minimum of six months will have the right to request remote working. You must wait a period of six months in order to be eligible, but your employer can offer remote working as an option from day one if desired – that is at the discretion of each individual company/business.
Employers will be required to provide reasonable grounds for refusing to facilitate an employee’s request. These grounds will be set out in the legislation and Codes of Practice will be developed to provide guidance and help employers implement the new law.
Varadker hopes that the new legislation will “give employers and workers legal clarity on remote working, which became the default for many during the pandemic”.
If a person’s request for remote working is denied and an appeal has been heard, the employee will have to wait a period of 12 months before submitting another request – they may do so sooner if they move roles within the company. Employers must respond to requests within 12 weeks and there will be a right of appeal to the Workplace Relations Commission for instances where an employer has failed to respond to a request or to provide any reasonable grounds for refusal of a request for remote working and protections for employees from penalisation for having exercised their entitlement to request remote working.
With more and more people looking to implement blended or hybrid work arrangements going forward, the new bill is a positive step in ensuring remote working can continue for those who want it to. Varadker hopes that the final legislation will be passed by the Oireachtas by the summertime.