Employees to soon have the right to request to work from home

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has brought a draft plan to Cabinet that will give employees the legal right to request remote working late this year.

The Right to Request Remote Working Bill 2021 will set out a framework where an employer can approve or reject an application from their employee to work from home. Should an employee be unsuccessful in their request, they can appeal the decision to the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC). The legislation will also protect employees from any possible victimization for requesting remote working.

Details of planned remote working legislation

Before requesting to work remotely, an employee must have worked for the business for at least six months.

Under this planned legislation, employers would be able to refuse a request ‘after due consideration’ for the following non-exhaustive grounds:

  • The nature of the work not allowing for the work to be done remotely.
  • Cannot reorganise work amongst existing staff.
  • Potential negative impact on quality.
  • Potential negative impact on performance.
  • Planned structural changes.
  • Burden of cost, taking into account the financial and other costs entailed and the scale and the financial resources of the employer’s business.
  • Concerns regarding the protection of business confidentiality or intellectual property.
  • Concerns regarding the suitability of the proposed workspace on health and safety grounds.
  • Concerns regarding the proposed workspace on data protection grounds.
  • Concerns regarding the internet connectivity of the proposed remote working location.
  • Inordinate distance between the proposed remote working location and on-site location.
  • If the proposed remote working arrangement conflicts with the provisions of an applicable agreement.
  • Ongoing or recently concluded formal disciplinary process.

A request can be refused on the grounds stated above but isn’t limited to just these grounds. Employers have 12 weeks to reply to a request by an employee to work remotely.

What does this mean for employers?

The legislation doesn’t provide a legal right for an employee to work from home in Ireland, only the right to make a request to work remotely.

If you don’t already have one in place, now is the time to introduce a Remote Work Policy. In your policy, state the process for applying for remote, hybrid, or blended working and the criteria you will go by to make a decision.

It’s also important that you review and update all relevant employment documentation, such as contracts and handbooks.

Further considerations

The Safety, Health & Welfare Act 2005 requires employers to provide a safe working environment for employees. The duty extends to any workplace, including an employee’s home office.

Employers may need to risk assess home working conditions to ensure that they are suitable and safe, before approving any remote working request in order to limit legal exposure to the company.

Need help updating contracts and creating your Remote Work Policy?

For guidance on updating contracts and creating your Remote Work Policy, speak to an expert HR consultant now on 01 886 0350 or request a callback here.

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Nora Cashe

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Nóra studied Law in Griffith College Dublin and qualified as a Barrister in 2008, practising in the area of Criminal law. She is also member of the Irish Employment Law Association.

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Nóra is a member of the Irish Employment Law Association and engages with the WRC Adjudication Service as part of their stakeholder engagement forum.

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