Legislative Right to Request to be fast-tracked Agreement between the Tánaiste and Minister O’Gorman provides greater certainty for workers and employers
Possibility to further extend flexible work to all workers following a review of the legislation in two years
The Government has today approved the integration of the Right to Request Remote Work for all workers into the Work Life Balance and Miscellaneous Provisions Bill which is expected to be delivered by the end of the year.
The Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise Trade and Employment, Leo Varadkar T.D., and the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Roderic O’Gorman, T.D., together agreed that amending the Work Life Balance Bill is the most efficient and practical way to introduce the right to request remote work to all workers.
Welcoming today’s Government decision the Tánaiste said:
“The Right to Request Remote Work is an important item on my agenda to improve workers’ rights and modernise the world of work.
“The benefits of remote working are obvious – less commuting, fewer transport emissions, better quality of life with more time with family and friends. New job opportunities will be created for people who want to live in rural Ireland, for people with disabilities and for people with caring responsibilities. Smaller towns and villages across Ireland will benefit from new investment, increased footfall and local spend.
“I am pleased that the Government and my colleague Minister O’Gorman has agreed to include this important new legal right for all workers in the Work Life Balance Bill which is already well advanced in the Oireachtas. Our collaboration on this legislation shows the commitment across Government to develop fairer, safer and more attractive workplaces.”
Integrating the Right to Request Remote Work for all workers into the Work Life Balance Bill means that employers and employees will now be making and considering requests for flexible or remote working under one piece of legislation and one Code of Practice to be developed by the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC). This will streamline the process and will help avoid inconsistencies and confusion.
Under the new legislation employees will have a legal right to request remote working from their employer. In addition, employers will now be required to have regard to the Code of Practice when considering requests. The Code of Practice will be established on a statutory footing and, it is expected that this Code will include guidance to employers and employees on their obligations regarding compliance.
Minister O’Gorman said:
“The Tánaiste and I have reflected on the recommendations of the Pre-Legislative Scrutiny Reports of both Bills, and input from stakeholders, including observations made in this House, and it is clear that integrating the relevant legislative provisions of the Right to Request Remote Working Bill into the Work Life Balance Bill represents a practical way forward.
I am conscious that many employers who went to great lengths to accommodate flexible working during the pandemic are now working out the extent to which it can be part of their businesses in the longer term. However, we will keep this legislation under review. That is why I also intend to introduce a provision in the Bill for the flexible working provisions to be reviewed after two years, including a consideration of extending the entitlement to a right to request flexible working to all employees.”
This new law on the Right to Request Remote Work adds to other workers’ rights that the Government is introducing, which include Statutory Sick Pay, a new Public Holiday in February, the Tips Act and the move to a National Living Wage.
Notes for Editors
- Under the integrated Bill, remote working will be defined as one type of flexible working. All employees will have a right to request remote working.
- The right to request any other type of flexible working, such as reduced working hours or adjusted working patterns, will remain limited to Parents and Carers, as defined in the Bill.
- The principal differences in the integrated Bill compared with the original Right to Request Remote Working Bill are in the grounds for refusal and the right to redress. The Right to Request Remote Working Bill provided for 13 specific grounds upon which an employer could refuse a request, as well as a general “business grounds” provision. Under the integrated Bill, the enumerated grounds will be replaced by an obligation on the employer to consider both their needs and the needs of employees when considering a request. Employers will also be required to have regard to a Code of Practice. Under the integrated Bill a complaint can be taken to the WRC where an employer hasn’t complied with the Code of Practice or the other requirements of the Bill. This represents an enhanced right to complaint, when compared with the original Right to Request Remote Working Bill as published earlier this year, which did not include a requirement for an employer to have regard to a Code of Practice and contained a number of grounds for refusal of a request.
- The Government has also instructed that a review of flexible working should take place after two years. This review will include a consideration of whether the right to request flexible working should be extended to all workers. This sequenced approach will allow companies time to settle their flexible working policies so the review can take into account lessons learned over the next two years.