Right to remote work – clear as mud?
DBASS Blog | October 2021

It is often the case with human nature that we confuse what we want for what actually is. In the absence of legislation the right to remote work certainly falls into this category.

The Government is not creating a right to work remotely – only to give “the right to request remote work.”  The proposed new legislation was due to be introduced earlier this year but the government is now indicating that this will be presented at the end of the year.

Let’s start by shedding some light on a few facts. An employee can ask to work remotely but presently there is no right to work remotely in Ireland unless it falls under one or some of the following:

  • It already forms part of an employee’s contract of employment
  • It is subsequently agreed to by the employer
  • If the employee has a disability
  • Or possibly, in the case of the employee having childminding issues.

The key change that the new legislation will bring is likely to limit when an employer can refuse such a request and how a request should be framed. It is also very likely that it will give employees a right to take action against their employer where such a request is unreasonably refused.

When the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment (“the DETE”) carried out a consultation process (a total of 175 submissions were received) it gave employers an indication on how the new statutory right might look once introduced. 

It covered areas such as:

  • Timeframe for replying to requests to work remotely
  • The length of service, if any, an employee should have before being entitled to work remotely
  • Health and safety & equipment required for remote working
  • Reasonable grounds of refusal of a request to work remotely
  • How to manage changes in any arrangement agreed between workers and employers
  • Monitoring of employees while working remotely

As more and more employees are returning to their work environment they are looking to their employers wanting to know if they will still be able to avail of remote working. If yes, how will it look? Fully remote or a hybrid working model? Both are two very different animals.

Without the aid of a crystal ball to know what that legislation is going to look like it certainly makes it very challenging for employers to put in place any remote working policy for their business if they either wish to do so or if it is a viable option for their business.

However, it is now that employers should give this time and careful consideration due to the number of factors that must be considered, including not limited to; health and safety, equipment to be provided, GDPR, insurance, legal issues, compensation, and cyber security.

The key to any policy is clarity and transparency but in the case of any remote working policy being introduced flexibility and adaptability also have to be cornerstones of it especially when the legislation comes into effect.

Disclaimer notice

This article is for discussion purposes only.  For further information on any of the topics covered in this article please contact a DBASS adviser on ph. 01 849 88 00.

by Jacky Kavanagh, DBASS Chartered Accountants.