Government publishes remote working strategy

Remote working
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Faster completion of National Broadband Plan part of new measures to be implemented by end of 2021

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15 January 2021 | 0

The Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade & Employment Leo Varadkar today published Ireland’s first National Remote Work Strategy to make remote working a permanent option for life after the pandemic.

The Strategy sets out plans to strengthen the rights and responsibilities of employers and employees, to provide the infrastructure to work remotely, and sets out clear guidance on how people can be empowered to work remotely from the office.

Among the main actions are:

 

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  • Legislate to provide employees the right to request remote working
  • Introduce a legally admissible code of practice on the right to disconnect from work – covering phone calls, emails and switch-off time
  • Invest in remote work hubs, ensuring they are in locations that suit commuters and are close to childcare facilities
  • Explore the acceleration of the National Broadband Plan
  • Review the treatment of remote working for the purposes of tax and expenditure in the next Budget
  • Lead by example by mandating that home and remote working should be the norm for 20% of public sector employees

“The pandemic has exacted a terrible toll on life and livelihoods in Ireland,” said The Tánaiste. “We all hope and pray for the day when it will be over, not so we can go back to the old normal but rather so we can have a new and better normal incorporating all that we have learned from living our lives and doing business in a very different way. The requirement to work from home where possible, for reasons of public health, has demonstrated how viable home, remote and blended working can be. Post-pandemic, I want remote working to be part of a whole new world of work and this new Government strategy sets out how we will enable it.

“Working from home has become the norm for many in 2020. We want remote, blended and flexible working arrangements a much bigger part of life after Covid. We’ve seen that there can be huge benefits – more flexibility, less commuting, more time for family and friends. It’s better for the transport emissions, and for quality of life, but it has to be done right. Employment rights need to be updated, we need to give guidance, and in many cases, we need to provide actual physical working space. It also requires a cultural shift in favour of facilitating it as an option. This Plan shows how we will bring all those parts together. I think it will make a real difference to people’s working lives.”

These actions will be completed over the course of 2021. An Implementation Group will be formed to monitor the progress of the actions with meetings being held every four months.

Commenting on the report Maura Quinn, chief executive of the Institute of Directors – an organisation representing 3,000 members from all sectors of the economy – said: “The ways and means of working within organisations have undergone a quiet revolution over the past eleven months. Remote working and the increased use of digital technology have reconfigured the way we work, where we work, and how we work. In turn, it is impacting business models and people’s work-life balance. Equally, our recent research revealed that the primary concern of business leaders with regard to remote working is the isolation of staff, and the threat of teams working in silos or a lack of cohesion between teams. In terms of this proposed new legislation on remote working, striking a balance will be key to satisfying the requirements and practicalities of both employers and employees. That will be no easy task.”

Quinn also noted that the digital transformation of Irish business is integral to the new remote working landscape.

“As Irish businesses rise to meet the immense challenges of Covid-19 and Brexit, further supports by Government will be necessary to ensure this new legislation does not impede but strengthens the growth of the economy. Further supports aimed at advancing the digital transformation of Irish businesses will be key, as well as ensuring that a proper broadband infrastructure is in place across the country. Poor connectivity will limit this new legislation before it even starts.”

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