My Budget: A ‘missed opportunity’ for more remote working supports

Webcasting executive says impact on workers goes beyond covering running costs

Simon Fine is a webcasting executive

Simon Fine is a webcasting executive

 

A “missed opportunity” is how Simon Fine views the Government’s decision not to announce more budgetary supports for people working remotely from home during the pandemic.

Fine is a remote worker who also facilitates remote working by others through Dublin webcasting company DV4. Changes in how we work requires more than just covering running costs.

Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe said working remotely has become “an essential part” of the response to Covid-19. State measures include employees not facing a benefit-in-kind tax charge on up to €3.20 paid a day by employers towards their expenses of working from home.

A worker may claim a tax deduction for utility expenses such as gas or electricity where an employer does not make a contribution and, for this year, broadband is covered too.

Claims may also be made by workers for any other vouched expenses incurred “wholly, exclusively and necessarily” in the performance of the duties of the employment.

Fine believes the Government could introduce more for remote workers.

“Forget the money for a minute – the money is one thing – but it is a missed opportunity in the acknowledgement in the way that people have changed how they have had to work and maybe the equipment or training or mental health supports they need,” he said.

“There is a lot more around remote working than ‘there you go, there’s €3.20’. I am stuck in a chair 12 or 13 hours a day many days. I have to force myself to get up and move around.”

Fine’s company, webcasting since 1998, has hosted hundreds of Zoom calls and webcasts during the pandemic, from the Green Party’s leadership contest this year to web-broadcasting to thousands of multinational workers. He has seen the effects for poorly resourced remote workers.

Working from home requires new equipment, from proper headsets to ergonomic computer, desk and chair set-ups, that some employers and employees might not be able to afford as staff must work from cramped attic spaces or kitchen tables or couches at home.

Many workers are on Zoom calls from the start to the end of their working day, viewing and downloading videos, and transferring large files that may breach their monthly broadband caps.

Then there is the “encroachment and sneaking of time” into people’s lives where “suddenly your home is your office” and there is an expectation that “you are only a Zoom away,” says Fine.

There could have been specific supports introduced by the Government now that might even avoid “a large health bill down the line” arising from this shift to remote working.

“It would have been quite proactive to see things like that addressed in this budget,” he said.