Government brings in Code of Practice on Right to Disconnect

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1 April 2021 | 0

From today employees in Ireland have the right to disengage from work and refrain from engaging in work-related electronic communications, such as e-mails, telephone calls or other messages, outside normal working hours.

Furthermore, the government has opened a consultation period inviting views on how to put the right to request remote working into law.

The measures come on foot of the announcement of the Our Rural Future plan, which includes plans for better connectivity and facilities for remote working.

 

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Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade & Employment Leo Varadkar said: “The pandemic has transformed working practices, and many of those changes will be long-lasting. Although much of the impact of the pandemic has been negative, particularly for those who have lost jobs, income or whose businesses have been closed, it also offers an opportunity to make permanent changes for the better, whether that’s working more from home, having more time with the family, or more flexible working hours.

“I am announcing two things today. Firstly, I have signed a new Code of Practice giving all employees the Right to Disconnect. This is effective immediately. Secondly, I am opening a public consultation on the right to request remote working, inviting views from all on how this right can be enshrined in law.”

Right to Disconnect

There are three rights enshrined in the new Code of Practice:

  • The right of an employee to not have to routinely perform work outside their normal working hours.
  • The right not to be penalised for refusing to attend to work matters outside of normal working hours.
  • The duty to respect another person’s right to disconnect (eg, by not routinely emailing or calling outside normal working hours).

The Code needs employers and employees to work together to determine the appropriate working arrangements and policies. Because the Code is flexible, employees will have more options to work outside of traditional hours, which many people have availed of during the pandemic. And it reflects the fact that many Irish employees are part of a global network, requiring contact with colleagues around the world.

While placing the onus of management of working time on the employer is appropriate, individual responsibility on the part of employees is also required (eg, being mindful of other colleagues’ right to disconnect or cooperating with any employer mechanism to keep a record of hours worked).

If problems or issues arise, employees have the right to raise the matter with the Workplace Relations Commission.

The Code was developed by the Workplace Relations Commission, following a request by the Tánaiste in November 2020, underpinning the commitment made in the Programme for Government to facilitate and support remote working.

Right to Request Remote Working

The Tánaiste also invited views on his plans to put the right to ask for remote working into law.

Currently in Ireland, all employees can ask their employers for the right to work remotely, but there is no legal framework around which a request can be made and how it should be dealt with by the employer. This new law will set out clearly how these requests should be facilitated as far as possible.

Not all work lends itself easily to remote working, for example where a worker needs to be physically present on site to do a task, interact with others, or use location-specific specialised machinery or equipment. In cases where remote work is suitable, a hybrid or blended model with a combination of remote work and onsite work may be the preferred arrangement. Some organisations may prefer a model where employees are required to come onsite only a few days a week or month. Some companies will need a core of ‘anchor’ people, who will be in the office or on site most days because they need to be. The new law will look at how all of these possibilities can be facilitated.

The Tánaiste said: “Putting the right to request remote working into law will provide a clear framework around which requesting, approving or refusing remote work can be based. In putting this into law, we recognise that remote working doesn’t work for everyone or for every organisation, so the Government will take a balanced approach with the new legislation. I encourage employers and employees alike to engage with this consultation and make their views known.”

Further information on how to make a submission can be found at Public Consultation on the introduction of a Right to Request Remote Work.

The closing date for public submissions is 7 May

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