Fórsa has again added its weight to calls for a legal right for employees to request remote working. In a submission to an official State consultation on the matter, the union said that, while some roles were inappropriate for remote working, legislation should underpin the principles of fair access to remote working arrangements.
The union also repeated its call for consistency and transparency in the application of criteria for deciding what roles are appropriate for remote work, and the selection criteria for employees to be allocated remote work.
The Fórsa submission said legislation should require employers to consult with employee representatives with a view to reaching agreement on remote working policies. Failing that, it said a formal Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) code of practice on these matters could be put in place, in consultation with social partners.
The Government made a commitment to establish a legal right to request remote working when it published its remote working strategy last January. It also said it would 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.
Fórsa’s submission to the latest consultation, which closes today (7th May), said that grounds for allowing or refusing remote working should be set out in agreements on remote work or in a formal WRC code of practice. And it recommended that, as a general rule, employees should spend some time in the workplace even if the majority of their work is done remotely.
The union also argued that legislation should include measures to protect employees from unreasonable surveillance and interference, and should oblige employers to inform employees of all measures intended to monitor work activity prior to the establishment of a remote working arrangement.
“Legislation should underpin full transparency and agreement over the use of any surveillance products or practices, and guarantee employees’ rights to privacy and a reasonable work-life balance, along with full compliance with the provisions of data protection legislation,” it said.
It added that employers should bear the cost of providing, installing and maintaining equipment required for the employee to perform their role, regardless of where they are doing it.
In a related development, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said he thought it would be September before Ireland saw a mass return to office-based working. He was speaking last week as the Government announced the first steps in easing ‘level five’ Covid restrictions.
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