Politics

Employers to have at least 13 grounds to refuse remote working requests

Employers will be able to refuse to grant an employee’s right to work remotely on at least 13 different grounds under draft legislation published on Tuesday.

However, they will have to be able to justify the decision if it is appealed by the worker.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar unveiled plans to give workers the right to request remote working after draft legislation was approved by Cabinet.

He said that up until now remote and home working had been imposed on people due to public health restrictions imposed during the pandemic.

“Now that they have been lifted, I want it to be a choice. I want workers to be able to work from home or remotely or hybrid if they want to.”

Employers will have to respond to a worker’s request for remote working within three months.

If they decline the request they will have to offer “reasonable business grounds for doing so” which under the legislation may include, but are not limited to, 13 different reasons.

They include that the nature of the work does not allow for the work to be done remotely; that the work cannot be reorganised among existing staff and it would have a potential negative impact on either work quality or performance.

Planned structural changes, the burden of additional costs and concern for the protection of business confidentiality or intellectual property are other grounds listed.

Concerns over the suitability of the proposed workspace on health and safety grounds or on data protection grounds are also cited as grounds.

Employers can also refuse to grant remote working if there are concerns about internet connectivity of the proposed remote working location or there is and inordinate distance between the proposed remote location and on-site location.

They can also refuse if the proposed remote working arrangement conflicts with the provisions of an applicable collective agreement.

And the request can be refused if there is an ongoing or recently concluded formal disciplinary processes.

Under the legislation appeals can be brought internally or to the Workplace Relations Commission or both.

Opposition politicians have claimed that the Government proposals do not go far enough and have called for people to be given the right to remote working.

Mr Varadkar said an “absolute right” to remote working is “not practical” saying there are a lot of jobs that can’t be done remotely.

“Construction, hospitality, care, most of retail, the transport sector, it just wouldn’t be possible to do those jobs from home.

“I think most people will understand that.”

He said: “In other cases, it might be possible to do job from home or remotely but that would result either in very high costs being burdened on the employer or potentially a diminution in services.”

He gave the example of college lecturers or teachers who could provide lectures or lessons online, but added: “that would result in a diminution of service for students.”

Mr Varadkar said that what is planned is a “qualified right, but one that I think makes sense and is practical and achievable”.

Workers become eligible to apply for remote working once they have been in a job for six months.

Employers will have to respond to a worker’s request working within 12 weeks.

The employer can say yes; make a counter offer with the worker getting a month to consider this; or refuse, though if they do this the employer must offer a good reason.

Mr Varadkar said that reason will “have to stack up and be solid” and this will be made clear in the final legislation when it is published.


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