Proposed legislation on right to request remote work ‘should be scrapped’

Proposed Bill ‘the flimsiest piece of workers’ rights legislation brought before Dáil’

Proposed legislation on remote working is "a charter for refusal" and should be scrapped, Labour TD Ged Nash has said.

Mr Nash said the Government has tried to "sell" the legislation "as a right to request remote working framework" but it was "nothing of the sort".

The Right to Request Remote Work Bill 2021 was introduced by the Government in January and will set out a legal framework whereby an employer can either approve or reject a request to work remotely from an employee. It also lays out 13 reasons why employers can refuse to approve a request for remote working.

The Bill is going through pre-legislative scrutiny by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Enterprise, Trade and Employment.

Mr Nash said the proposed legislation was “frankly bizarre” and that “no lessons have been learned” from the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Government tries to sell it as a right to request remote working framework. It’s nothing of the sort, in fact it is a charter for refusal . . . it’s toothless, anaemic and it should be scrapped,” he said.

The Louth TD was speaking in the Dáil on Wednesday on a motion put forward by the Labour Party on the right to flexible work.

Mr Nash said the gains from the last two years “cannot be squandered” and that it would be better off “giving this frankly useless Government Bill a decent burial”.

His party colleague Ivana Bacik said the Central Bank had noted that female participation in the Irish labour force increased by 3.5 percentage points since the pandemic began.

The Dublin Bay South TD also said there were environmental benefits to be gained from the right to flexible working with fewer cars on the roads and cleaner air.

Solidarity TD Mick Barry said the Bill was "the flimsiest piece of workers' rights legislation ever brought before the Dáil".

People Before Profit TD Paul Murphy said the Government's proposals were "gesture politics at its very worst".

Mr Murphy said people needed a “genuine right to remote work” where bosses would only be able not to allow work from home “in exceptional circumstances where it simply isn’t possible for that work to be done”.

Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment Robert Troy said they were "draft proposals" and that the Government remains open to making "constructive amendments" to what was originally proposed.

Mr Troy said the Bill would enhance the rights and entitlements of workers but it also needs to ensure “a balanced approach that is fair and affordable for employers”.

“Similarly, it must be acknowledged that not all occupations, industries or particular roles within enterprise will be appropriate or suitable for remote working, ie construction workers, nurses, etc,” he said.

“Therefore calls for an automatic legal right for all workers to be granted remote work are not realistic.”

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns is a reporter for The Irish Times