Varadkar open to changes to planned law on right to remote working

There are claims the 13 grounds employers can cite in refusing a work-from-home request are weighed in favour of the employer

The aim of the Bill is to allow people to seek the kinds of working-from-home arrangements they had during the  pandemic.   Photograph: Getty Images

The aim of the Bill is to allow people to seek the kinds of working-from-home arrangements they had during the pandemic. Photograph: Getty Images

 

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said he is open to changes to the proposed law on the right to request remote working amid criticism of the draft Bill by unions and Opposition politicians.

There have been claims that the 13 grounds employers can cite in refusing a work-from-home request are weighed in favour of the employer, and that the appeals process is too limited.

The aim of the Bill is to allow people to seek the kinds of working-from-home arrangements they had during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Patricia King, general secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, described the Bill as “fairly fundamentally flawed”.

She told RTÉ Radio’s Today with Claire Byrne that under the heads of the Bill the appeal mechanism does not extend to a complaint on the substance or merit of an employer’s decision. She said an appeal can only be made on a technicality in the process, such as missing timelines for decisions.

Mr Varadkar, the Minister for Enterprise, told the same programme that the Bill would create a new worker’s right, and that he wanted to promote and facilitate blended working.

He said it gives someone with no contractual rights to work remotely the right to request such an arrangement and within 12 weeks the employer “has to consider it and come back with a reasoned response”.

“They can say yes, can say no or can make a counter proposal.”

Request

He said that if an employer refuses a request they have to give a reason, which could be appealed, ultimately to the Workplace Relations Commission.

Responding to Ms King’s concern about the appeals process, Mr Varadkar said he understood her concerns, but that what was published was a draft outline rather than a full Bill.

He said the final legislation “is going to be clear that it’s not just a procedural right… it’s not just the case of an employer being able to tick one of those 13 boxes. It will have to stand up.”

Mr Varadkar agreed he was open to amendments to the Bill, and would take suggested changes seriously. He also said there would be further engagement with unions and employers, and that the Government hoped to have the legislation enacted by the summer.