How to handle work from home requests

Working from home has allowed many office-based businesses to maintain productivity during this past year of COVID-19 restrictions.

Working from home, for most businesses, started out as a temporary arrangement. But, now many employees want to continue working from home.

Many of us in the HR world expect that employers will spend a lot of 2021 dealing with work from home requests.

Do employees have a legal right to work from home?

The first thing to note is that as the law stands, employees don’t have a legal entitlement to work from home. However, that may change by the end of 2021. So, it’s up to you, the employer, to decide whether working from home can work in your business.

That said, we have to take the prevailing circumstances into account. It seems inevitable that employees will be making more and more work from home requests.

Thus, employers who put a homeworking policy in place will be in a much better position to handle employee work from home requests. This will put you in a good position to deal with each individual request. It should also boost your business from an employee relations perspective.

Begin with a policy

The best place to start is to put a written policy in place. This will set out the details of how requests for home working arrangements will operate, any eligibility requirements, and how requests are assessed.

The policy needs to include consideration of your business operations and the role of employees within those operations. Certain roles must be carried out on-site meaning not all employees would be eligible for consideration. For that reason, the policy should reserve your right to refuse requests for objectively justifiable operational reasons.

Consideration of a request

Some of the issues you’ll need to consider as part of determining a work from home request include:

  • Health & safety obligations around allowing the employee to work from home.
  • How the arrangement would impact your business needs and the needs of clients/customers.
  • The employee’s role in terms of how much supervision is needed.
  • The costs of setting up a home workstation.
  • IT and Data Protection implications.

Part of the consideration process could include a trial period to see how the proposed homeworking setup would work in practice. A trial run is a useful exercise before making a final decision.

Keep detailed documentation

Document the entire process. If you have to refuse a request, the reasons for the refusal should be written down. The notes should say that you considered the request and justification for the refusal. If you turn down the request, communicate the refusal and reasoning to the employee in writing.

Do I need to update the employee’s contract?

If you allow the employee to work from home, yes, you’ll need to review their contract of employment.

It’s a good idea to confirm in the contract that work from home arrangements are subject to continual review. This type of clause will reserve your right to bring the employee back to the office full-time as the needs of the business dictate.

Hybrid solutions

We expect a lot of businesses to move to a more hybrid mixture of office and homeworking in the next 12 months. Being ready to handle work from home requests from staff could be a great way to keep your staff happy and future-proof your business.

Need our help?

For further advice on work from home requests, speak to an expert now on 01 886 0350 or request a callback here.

Book a call with a consultant

Complete the form below and a consultant will call you as soon as possible.

Book a call with a consultant

Complete the form below and a consultant will call you as soon as possible.

Latest Resources

Employer’s guide to lay-offs in Ireland

It’s common for businesses facing a downturn in trade to let employees go on a temporary basis. As an employer, you may also need to […]

Long-term sickness absence: When to conduct an informal welfare meeting

Everyone gets sick, so short-term sickness absence is something all employers will have to deal with from time to time and tends to cause minimal […]

Notice periods: an employer’s guide

Within a business, it’s constantly necessary to re-evaluate and adjust workforce planning. Whether this is due to employees looking for different career paths or the […]

Olga Shevchenko

Director/Advocate, Immigration Advice Bureau

Olga Shevchenko specialises in immigration advocacy and consultancy, in particular, employment permit, visas, family reunification, citizenship, etc, for those seeking to visit, reside or invest in Ireland.

Olga provides extensive information, knowledge, and support to her clients, enabling access to positive solutions for people struggling to handle the immigration law.

Minister Neale Richmond

Minister of State, Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment

Neale Richmond TD was appointed as Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment with special responsibility for Employment Affairs and Retail Business and the Department of Social Protection in January 2023.

Much of his work at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment is with businesses, workers, their representative bodies and the State Agencies to ensure that the economic recovery and growth extends to all parts of the country. He works closely with the SME sector, including retail, on building resilience and on the transition to the green and digital economies.

Mark Carpenter

Director of Regulatory & Corporate Affairs, Sky

Mark Carpenter is Director of Regulatory & Corporate Affairs at Sky Ireland. In this role he has responsibility for External and Internal Communications, Public Policy and Regulatory Affairs and the company’s ‘Bigger Picture’ (CSR) programme. He also works closely with Sky Group teams on a variety of matters, in particular our partnerships with domestic broadcasters.

Prior to working at Sky, Mark worked as a Policy Officer in Houses of the Oireachtas and as a Management Consultant at Accenture. He has a BA in History from Oxford University and a PhD in Political Science from Trinity College Dublin.

Nora Cashe

Litigation and Compliance Manager, Peninsula

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.

Nora has extensive experience representing clients at Employment Tribunal hearings, Conciliation / Mediation meetings before both the Workplace Relations Commission and the Labour Court. 

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

Deiric McCann

Managing Director, Genos International Europe

Deiric McCann leads Genos International Europe – The EU division of a world-leading provider of emotional intelligence solutions. 

With over two decades experience at the highest levels of management, Deiric supports clients to develop the resilience, emotional intelligence, psychological safety and engagements of their employees.

Rhiannon Coyne

Senior HR Consultant, Graphite HRM

Rhiannon Coyne is a Senior HR Consultant at Graphite HRM and will be providing an overview of best practice on how to deal with complaints of bullying and harassment in the workplace. 

With a number of recent updates to employment laws, Rhiannon will take a closer look at employment equality and how it is interlinked to Health & Safety and what employers can learn from recent case laws.

David Begg

Chairman, Workplace Relations Commission

David Begg was appointed Chairperson of the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) in January 2021.

David is also a professor at Maynooth University Institute of Social Sciences. Mr Begg’s extensive history in the trade union movement included leading the ESB Officers Association and Irish Congress of Trade Unions, stepping away from the latter in 2001 to chair international aid agency Concern.

David Begg was also previously a director of the Central Bank of Ireland between 1995 and 2010.