Budget to include measures to support remote working - Varadkar

Tánaiste says future working arrangements will not be ‘one size fits all’

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said the Government does not want to lose ‘this wonderful window of opportunity we have to put choice first and give people autonomy over how they work’. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said the Government does not want to lose ‘this wonderful window of opportunity we have to put choice first and give people autonomy over how they work’. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

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Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said the Budget will include measures to support remote working as he said the Government fears a drift back to the “old normal” of returning to offices as the pandemic recedes.

Mr Varadkar was speaking at the launch of a campaign to make employers and staff aware of Government advice on how remote and blended working can be facilitated.

He said that people are still being advised to work from home if possible as the threat of Covid-19 remains.

But Mr Varadkar said: “We don’t want to go back to the old normal. We want a new normal.

“We want that to be based on personal choice... to work from home, work from a remote hub near where they live, or what most people appear to want to do, is a blend of working where sometimes you might be in the office... other times at home”.

He said the Government does not want to lose “this wonderful window of opportunity we have to put choice first and give people autonomy over how they work - provided of course that business needs are met.”

He said working from home would involve potential costs for employers and employees.

Mr Varadkar outlined how employers have to provide equipment while staff are likely to have higher utility bills at home.

“There’s also savings too you know reduced commuting costs, reduced transport costs, so it isn’t going to be one size fits all, it is going to depend on the individual, depend on the workplace.”

He said the Budget will include “a package around remote working” adding: “obviously we don’t know the details of that yet but [Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe] and I are working on it and it will be to change the existing tax and expenses regime to support people who are remote working and also to help businesses.”

Mr Varadkar has previously spoken about how the measures would include incentives and be an improvement on existing supports.

In terms of people returning to work in offices Mr Varadkar said September is now looking more likely than August.

He said it will depend on the public health advice and that the return to offices would happen on a phased basis, initially with meetings, induction, training, then a staggered return to the office.

Mr Varadkar said: “I appreciate employers would like clearer public health advice on this” and he suggested it may emerge tomorrow [Tuesday] depending on what happens at Cabinet.