Varadkar signals major overhaul of planned law on right to request remote working

Tánaiste says new planned legislation ‘departs quite far’ from original outline published in January

There is to be a major overhaul of the Government’s proposed law on the right to request remote working, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has signalled.

Mr Varadkar denied the Coalition is dragging its feet on finalising the legislation but said that of five areas where he is seeking to reform workers’ rights, remote working is the “most complicated” and the one “we found it hardest to get consensus on”.

He told the Oireachtas Committee on Enterprise: “That’s why it’s fallen behind the others which are now effectively done” — referring to measures including bringing in statutory sick pay and protecting hospitality workers’ tips.

The original outline of the Right to Request Remote Work Bill 2022 — known as the heads of the Bill — was published in January and Mr Varadkar suggested on Thursday that this draft of the legislation will be revised, saying: “What we’re planning on doing departs quite far from the original heads”.


Aspects of the original proposals have been criticised by trade unions, employers’ groups and opposition politicians throughout the pre-legislative process at the Enterprise committee.

Irish Congress of Trade Unions (Ictu) general secretary Patricia King previously told the enterprise committee that the draft law is “stacked in favour of the employer at every turn”.

She highlighted how the grounds of refusal of a request are not limited to the 13 listed in the draft Bill.

The Department of Enterprise suggested to the committee in June that the employers could have fewer grounds to refuse requests under changes to the legislation that were under consideration at the time.

Employers’ group Ibec questioned if the legislation is the most effective way of promoting the practice of remote working, which became common during the Covid-19 pandemic.

It suggested a statutory right to request remote working is “premature” and may “stymie” efforts between employers and employees to manage remote working in “a creative and dynamic way”.

Throughout the months long debate on the right to remote working Mr Varadkar, the Minister for Enterprise, has repeatedly said he had a “listening ear” and is open to changes to the legislation.

In July the enterprise committee published a report on is pre-legislative scrutiny of the Bill noting in its report that much of the public commentary on the Bill “has not been positive”.

Its recommendations included how employees should be able to make a request to work remotely without being required to have at least 26 weeks of service in their job and revisiting the “cumbersome” grounds for refusal.

At Thursday’s committee meeting Labour Senator Marie Sherlock noted committee recommendations including another on allowing appeals on the basis of the substance of the refusal as opposed to limiting appeals to the process involved.

She asked Mr Varadkar for “clarity” on what will be contained in the final Bill which he had earlier indicated would be published before the end of the year.

Mr Varadkar thanked the committee for its work saying: “You heard all sides and it’s a much more complicated area when you actually hear all sides than I thought it was at the start.”

He said the committee’s recommendations are “very solid and I hope will allow us to produce legislation that would have cross party support.”

He said work is ongoing on Bill and the heads will probably have to be revised.

“What we’re planning on doing departs quite far from the original heads so we intend to do revised heads in the next couple of weeks ... My commitment anyway that I’ve given is to have the revised legislation published before Christmas.”

Ms Sherlock accused the Government of “dragging its heels on this”, a charge Mr Varadkar rejected saying he is keen to have the legislation published before December 15th, the date when he is due to return to the Taoiseach’s office.

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn is a Political Correspondent at The Irish Times