Remote work applicants may have to assess own conditions

Workspace ergonomics and data security to be part of written request to work from home

Tánaiste and Minister for Employment Leo Varadkar: Employer reasons for any refusing of requests to work from home would “have to stack up and be solid”. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Tánaiste and Minister for Employment Leo Varadkar: Employer reasons for any refusing of requests to work from home would “have to stack up and be solid”. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

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Employees hoping to work from home in future may have to carry out a self-assessment on issues like the suitability of their workspace and data protection requirements under the proposed new law to provide the right to request remote working.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar unveiled the heads of the Right to Request Remote Work Bill 2021 as he said that, now Covid-19 restrictions had been lifted, he wanted workers to have a choice of being able to work remotely or in hybrid arrangements if they wished.

Under the plans, employers will be able to refuse to grant an employee’s right to work remotely on at least 13 different grounds.

However, they will have to be able to justify the decision if it is appealed either internally or to the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC).

Mr Varadkar said reasons for a refusal would “have to stack up and be solid” and that decisions of the WRC would be binding.

‘Easier to say yes’

He said working from home was not possible in some jobs but the intention of the new law was to “make it easier for employers to say yes and harder for them to say no”.

Under the proposals, all employers must have a formal remote working policy and they can specify the self-assessment requirements in relation to the proposed work location in these policies.

The draft legislation says an employee’s written request for remote working will have to include a “self-assessment of the suitability of the proposed remote working locations regarding specific requirements for carrying out the job such as data protection and confidentiality, minimum levels of internet connectivity, ergonomic suitability of proposed workspace and any equipment or furniture requirements”.

Codes of practice

The Irish Times asked the Department of Enterprise if employees will get assistance in completing self-assessments of the proposed work location given that most people do not have expertise in areas like data protection or ergonomics.

A statement said the legislation “provides for the development of codes of practice [by the WRC] to provide guidance to employers, employees and their representatives on the general principles which apply in the operation of remote working”.

It said information would also be provided in the form of templates for remote work policies to assist employers develop their own policy and to help them identify the types of information and procedures that should be outlined in it.

The statement added: “The requirement for a self-assessment, and the information required to be contained within one, will be matters for employers to specify in their remote work policy, and an employee will be guided by that policy and the codes of practice in completing same.”