Thursday, 1 April 2021
Ceisteanna ar Reachtaíocht a Gealladh - Questions on Promised Legislation
Leo Varadkar (Dublin West, Fine Gael)
To answer the questions that have been asked, last night I signed the new code of practice giving people the right to disconnect. Essentially, it has three elements: the right not to be expected or required to reply to emails and phone calls out of hours; the right not to be victimised for refusing to do so; and the duty to respect the right of others to disconnect. It is a code of practice that has been signed by me and, therefore, although it is not an offence to breach it in itself, it can be admitted as evidence by the Workplace Relations Commission in disputes over working times. The most important thing that should happen now at workplace level is for employers and employees to sit down and agree a policy for their workplace because every workplace is different. Some workplaces operate from 9 to 5, Monday to Friday, while others operate 24-7 and work on an international basis. We encourage people to sit down and agree a policy for their workplace now.
Today I launched the public consultation on the right to request remote working. This is very important for rural Ireland and small towns and villages because we are asking people's views on how we should enshrine that right in law. At the moment, one can request the ability to work from home or a village, town or remote hub, but there is no legal framework under which one's employer must reply and give reasons for accepting or rejecting the request and there is no way in which one can challenge the decision. We wish to change that. The public consultation on that opened today.
As regards the national broadband plan, this is a €3 billion investment in rural Ireland. It is the biggest single investment in rural Ireland ever. The contract was signed by the previous Government, which I had the honour to lead, and is being delivered by this Government, of which I have the honour of being a member. It is now well under way. I have met NBI. We are exploring the possibility of accelerating the plan. It can only be done so fast. It will be approximately 100,000 homes, farms and businesses every year. If it can be done faster, it will, but it can only be done so fast. My meeting with NBI went quite well and we explored the kind of things that might be done to speed up the process.
As regards the question asked by Deputy McNamara on the competition Bill-----