There is much talk at the moment about a return to the office and the expected legislation on remote work. As the law now stands, employers are allowed to decided from where their workers will work. This should be written in the terms and conditions of employment, and the contract provided to the worker at their commencement.

The pandemic meant that many workers were required to work from home during the public emergency. We learnt that this way of working suited many workers with decreased commute time and more time to spend with family. There were some difficulties too; with some workers reporting a difficulty in switching off. Some people missed the collegiality of the office.

As we (hopefully) exit the pandemic, we look at work in a new light, and the government’s Right to Request Remote Working Bill looks at introducing an obligation on employers to consider requests for remote work.

Employers will be required to show reasonable grounds for refusing a worker their request to work remotely. Acceptable reasons would likely include:

  • Inability to reorganise workers
  • Nature of the work makes remote performance of role impossible
  • Impact on quality of work or performance
  • Disproportionate burden of additional costs
  • Concerns in relation to confidentiality and intellectual property
  • Concerns in relation to health and safety of the proposed workspace
  • Poor internet in the proposed workspace
  • Distance between the remote location and the core workplace
  • Conflict with a collective agreement
  • Planned structural changes
  • Ongoing or recent disciplinary process

All workplaces will be obliged to have a written Remote Working Policy. This policy must specify how requests for remote work will be managed. Employers will need to look at things like whether they wish to have requests in writing, timeframe for responses, issues to look at when considering a request, the right of appeal and the timeframe around repeated requests.

The process will have to be fair and care must be taken not to discriminate against any worker on the grounds of age, gender, civil status, disability, race, ethnicity, religion, family status, sexual orientation or membership of the traveller community.

It is expected that the legislation will pass by summer 2022, and until then we do not know the detail. However, it is advisable for employers to begin thinking about their remote working policies and looking at the specific issues that might arise for their business.

The above is provided for information purposes and is not intended as legal advice. If you have questions about remote working or any aspect of employment law we, at Fitzsimons Redmond, would be happy to advise you on your next steps. Please contact us on 01-676 3257.

By Lisa Quinn O’Flaherty

Partner at Fitzsimons Redmond