Written answers

Tuesday, 12 October 2021

Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment

Flexible Work Practices

Photo of Paul MurphyPaul Murphy (Dublin South West, RISE)
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25. To ask the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if his attention has been drawn to a number of employees that have been deemed unable to return to their place of work full-time by their healthcare professional under circumstances in which they are able to fulfil their job in full while working from home when they are experiencing inflexibility from their employers given the absence of remote working legislation; if his Department will be introducing measures to safeguard these workers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49216/21]

Photo of Leo VaradkarLeo Varadkar (Dublin West, Fine Gael)
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From the outset of Covid-19, many employers have taken the initiative, in line with subsequent requests from the Government, to be as flexible as possible in allowing staff to work from home.

On 31 August 2021, the Government published Reframing the Challenge: Continuing our Recovery and Reconnecting, containing updated guidance which took effect from 20 September 2021, as part of a gradual and careful re-opening process in advance of further planned relaxation of restrictions on the 22 October.

All workers, regardless of the sector of the economy in which they work, are covered by the provisions of the Work Safely Protocol and I can assure you that the Government is committed to continue to work closely with employers and trade unions to ensure appropriate guidance is in place for this next phase of reopening.

The right to request remote work is part of a broader Government vision to make remote working a permanent feature of Ireland’s workforce in a way that can benefit all – economically, socially and environmentally. The commitment to introduce legislation to underpin employees' right to request remote work was made in the national Remote Work Strategy published last January.

The Bill will set out a clear framework to facilitate remote and blended work options, in so far as possible. It will ensure that when an employer declines a request, there are stated reasons for doing so. Remote working won’t work for everyone, so we will take a balanced approach with the legislation.

Informed by the public consultation and a review of international best practice, the drafting of the General Scheme of the Bill has commenced and I will be seeking Cabinet approval for the drafting of Heads of a Bill in Quarter 4 of 2021. The Bill will be progressed through the Oireachtas as quickly as possible thereafter. The intention is to introduce a mechanism for employees to request remote working that is fair but does not place an undue burden on employers.

In the meantime, we will also continue to provide up to date advice, guidance and information on all aspects of remote working for workers and employers.

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