A draft law to provide the right to request remote working is “far too heavily stacked” towards reasons why employers should not allow staff to do so, TDs and Senators will be told.
Not-for-profit organisation Grow Remote will say the draft law is a “step in the right direction” but calls for “drastic changes” in the legislation aimed at supporting companies to agree to remote working.
Its representatives are due to appear on Wednesday before the Oireachtas Committee on Enterprise, Trade and Employment, which is conducting pre-legislative scrutiny of the the Right to Request Remote Working Bill 2022.
A draft of the law – aimed at supporting remote work practices which developed during the pandemic – was published in January by Tánaiste Leo Varadkar. He said at the time that he was open to amendments.
Grow Remote's opening statement to the committee says it welcomes the Bill in broad terms but it believes the success or failure of remote working in Ireland does not lie within legislation.
It says: “What’s needed is a systemic change at all levels to support companies to make the transition to remote-first working.”
Grow Remote suggests the Government needs to put in place funded supports for Irish businesses who want to set up remote working models.
It calls for a communications campaign, of the level seen during preparations for Brexit, and says the Government should lead by example and prioritise the creation of remote working policies across the public sector.
The organisation identifies three significant risks in the absence of the right supports for remote working: employers losing talented staff to companies who offer remote working; Ireland struggling to compete internationally with countries moving quickly in the area; and “losing the current window of opportunity to drive significant social and economic change”.
On the draft legislation, Grow Remote says: “The Bill in its current form and the public debate around the topic of remote working is far too heavily stacked towards providing reasons why employers should not enable their staff to work remotely.”
Grounds for refusal
The draft Bill includes 13 grounds for refusal of a request for remote working. Grow Remote says this list is too broad and it will urge the committee to “recommend drastic changes so that the spirit and letter of the Bill would shift entirely towards supporting companies to say yes to remote working.”
The organisation says “a number of the reasons listed only serve to feed into damaging misconceptions about remote work”.
It also raises concern about a requirement for a person to be in a job for six months before they can make a remote working request. They want this removed.
“By imposing a six-month eligibility criteria, the legislation is restricting one of the key benefits of remote work: the removal of location as a barrier to employment.
“When a new hire has to be in the office for the first six months of their tenure with a company, they will have no option but to live within commuting distance of the office.”
A spokeswoman for the Department of Enterprise responded to the issues raised by Grow Remote saying the new law is “the first of its kind in Ireland” and that the ongoing pre-legislative scrutiny “is a further opportunity for consultation”.
She said: “The Tánaiste has said several times that he has a ‘listening ear’ on the legislation and is open to changes, especially on provisions relating to the number of reasons to reject a request and the mechanism for appeal.”
The spokeswoman added: “Among the strengths of the proposed law is that it will require all employers to have a policy on remote and hybrid working as well as a legal right for workers to request it.
“Currently, this is not the case.”