Time to build on pandemic remote work gains
by Bernard Harbor
 Fórsa said the benefits of remote or ‘blended’ working should not be abandoned.
Fórsa said the benefits of remote or ‘blended’ working should not be abandoned.

The proposed phased return to workplaces should build on the positive pandemic experience of remote or ‘blended’ working, according to Fórsa.


The union this week said remote working had largely sustained or increased productivity throughout the pandemic, while bringing wider benefits to employers, workers and society.


The union’s call came after Tuesday’s (31st August) Cabinet sign-off on a comprehensive unwinding of Covid-19 restrictions, including a phased return to workplaces from 20th September. Speaking to reporters after the launch, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said he expected people to embrace ‘blended working’ – a mix of remote work and workplace attendance.


In a statement Fórsa said the benefits of remote or ‘blended’ working should not be abandoned. It confirmed that there had been some early engagement between the union and civil service management on the implementation of the Government’s ‘Blended Working Policy Statement,’ published in July.


The statement says the civil service will switch from pandemic-related remote working provisions to long-term ‘blended working’ arrangements between September 2021 and March 2022.


The current management-union engagement is aimed at agreeing a framework capable of being rolled-out across the public service, rather than being confined to central Government departments and agencies.


A Fórsa spokesperson said the public service should show a lead on remote working, which can bring significant benefits to staff, employers and society while sustaining service quality and productivity.


“We want to see a consistent approach across the civil and public service, with transparency and fairness over access to remote working. We are also seeking adequate protections on working conditions, privacy and data protection, a right to disconnect, and health and safety including mental health,” they said.


The Government’s Remote Working Strategy, published in January 2021, includes a pledge to establish a legal right to request remote working, introduce a legally admissible code of practice on the right to disconnect, review the treatment of remote working for tax purposes, and make remote working the norm for 20% of public sector staff.


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