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Bill on right to request remote working set to go to Cabinet tomorrow, says Varadkar

The new bill will also provide circumstances in which employers can refuse to offer remote working.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar
Tánaiste Leo Varadkar
Image: Sam Boal

TÁNAISTE LEO VARADKAR has said that a bill on the right to request to work remotely is set to go to Cabinet tomorrow.

Speaking to reporters this afternoon, Varadkar said that while workers can ask for remote working at present, there is currently no legal framework around seeking remote working.

The new framework will also provide circumstances in which employers can refuse to offer remote working.

“Of course, any worker can request remote working now, but there isn’t a proper legal framework,” said Varadkar.

“This legal framework will set out the reasons according to which an employer could refuse remote working and also have an appeals mechanism that can be adjudicated independently through the workplace relations commission.”

Varadkar says that he hopes to have the bill enacted over the next several months, and that he doesn’t want things to go back to the old, pre-Covid normal.

“One thing we are concerned about happening and we don’t want to happen is businesses and employers just returning to things the way they were before the pandemic happened.

“We want to see more remote working, more home working, more hybrid working.

“What we want to move to is a situation where people are working from home because they have to, but they’re working from home because they choose to.”

He added that employers should facilitate home and hybrid working, provided that work gets done.

Alongside the bill, Varadkar said that an updated Work Safety Protocol would be published before the end of the week, following official meetings between the Labour Employer Economic Forum and meetings with unions.

He said that it would be updated as part of a transition period for the next few months, following the removal of almost all Covid-19 restrictions.

“It’s [Work Safety Protocol] going to be updated for a transition period of a few months and that’s going to give employers and employees guidance about how to carry out the phased return to work over the next couple of weeks.

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“We’ll try to make permanent some of those things that were always a good idea in a workplace, such as good air quality to reduce the risk of the transmission of viruses, hygiene and avoiding overcrowding.

“We expect to be able to publish the revised Work Safety Protocol by the end of the week.”

About the author:

Christina Finn and Tadgh McNally

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