Employers shun right to disconnect policies and law on remote workplace safety

Half say they will be ‘partially flexible’ on working from home, finds law firm survey

About four in 10 organisations do not have a remote working policy in place, while 63 per cent do not have a right to disconnect policy, despite a code of practice on the latter coming into effect in April 2021.

That’s according to the findings of a survey of more than 150 human resources professionals by business law firm Mason Hayes & Curran.

And despite the widespread abandonment of offices taking place almost two years ago, only 38 per cent have conducted risk assessments of employees’ remote working space, it found.

Almost nine in 10 organisations have now started bringing employees back on site, although some 44 per cent of organisations have indicated they will be “very flexible” about remote working and 51 per cent said they would be “partially flexible”.


Only 5 per cent of organisations indicated they would not be flexible at all about facilitating remote working.

The survey was undertaken in light of the Government’s National Remote Work Strategy, the Code of Practice on the Right to Disconnect and the draft Right to Request Remote Working Bill 2022.

"As it stands, employees don't have the legal or statutory right to request remote working, so that's what the Right to Request Remote Working Bill is trying to legislate for," said Mason Hayes & Curran senior associate Jessica Bielenberg.

“In reality, there is not much a disgruntled employee can do if their employer refuses a request for remote working.”

Employers should still have an appeal process in place as part of their remote work policy. Employees must wait two weeks for an employer to deal any appeal, and only at that point, and only on procedural grounds, can they take a claim to the Workplace Relations Commission.

‘Clear onus’

The Right to Request Remote Working Bill also allows for it to become an offence for organisations not to have a remote working policy in place, which Mason Hayes & Curran senior partner Ger Connolly described as "interesting and somewhat unusual".

Organisations “should absolutely have a policy that sets out their position in relation to remote working”, said Mr Connolly, adding that there was a “clear onus” on employers to carry out a risk assessment of remote working spaces and provide the right equipment.

“Employers have the same health and safety obligations whether employees are working from the office or working from their kitchen table,” he said.

This has always been an obligation under health and safety legislation. However, under the draft remote working bill, there is a specific requirement for employees to identify a dedicated remote workspace and conduct a self-assessment of this space.

Melanie Crowley, head of the firm's employment and benefits team, said the low proportion of employers who have put in place a right to disconnect policy, coupled with limits to the types of complaints that employees can make under the remote working bill, "makes me wonder whether it is all a bit of a non-event".

“Employers and employees also need to bear in mind that remote working is not the same as flexible working and that flexibility in this post-Covid reality we all now inhabit is, I think, what employees really want.”

Laura Slattery

Laura Slattery

Laura Slattery is an Irish Times journalist writing about media, advertising and other business topics