Remote work has been a global topic since the COVID crisis. Across Ireland and the world, businesses and workers had to adapt almost overnight to working from home.
COVID restrictions are relaxed, but remote work is still with us. And now, it may become a legal right in Ireland. This blog is all about that law and what it means.
We believe that the right to request remote working is nothing for business to be scared of. You do need technology to make it work. But with the right tech and the right practices, anything’s possible.
From our base in Cork, we’ve been providing remote working tools for many years. So we know a thing or two about how to make it work. In the rest of this blog, we’ll give an overview of the coming law change, and explain how you can manage it.
The rise of remote work
Remote work pre-dated COVID, and so did the tech to support it. But there’s no doubt that COVID restrictions massively accelerated the trend towards it.
According to the Central Statistics Office (CSO), 39% of Irish employees worked remotely at some point in 2021. Before COVID, the figure was just 8%.
This varied substantially by industry and job role. Unsurprisingly, jobs like skilled trades and factory-based jobs reported very low figures, which brought the average down. In a lot of office-based professions, remote working figures were much higher.
That same survey revealed that hybrid and fully remote workers reported above average job satisfaction. This confirms all those stories about the morale boost of remote or hybrid working! That’s ultimately the reason why Ireland and other countries are looking to make it a right.
The Right to Request Remote Working Bill
For some time, the Irish government has talked about making remote work a legal right. In January 2022, the full draft legislation was finally published by Leo Varadkar, the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment.
It’s not law yet. It’s currently working its way through the Oireachtas. Most recently, the Committee on Enterprise, Trade and Employment reviewed the Bill and made some recommendations. Here’s a basic summary.
How will the law work?
The draft law would make it a right to request remote working, but only for those who have served 26 weeks or more on the job. The Committee recommended reducing this to 12 weeks.
Employers will have to have a policy on remote working. When an employee requests remote working, the employer will have to respond in line with their policy. It will be an offence not to inform workers of the policy, punishable by a Fixed Penalty Notice.
The Bill creates 13 legitimate reasons why employers can refuse an employee’s request. Among others, these include concerns over costs and confidentiality, as well as whether the work can realistically be done remotely.
What’s the reaction to the Bill?
It’s been pretty negative, as the Committee report noted. In fact, the law has been criticised from both sides. Unions have said it gives too much licence to employers to refuse requests. Meanwhile, a lot of businesses have expressed concern about its viability and the bureaucracy it creates.
Will the Bill change?
It probably will. The Committee made a long list of suggested improvements, and it’s likely to face various amendments in the Dáil. Some of those objections we mentioned earlier may well influence the final law.
We’ll just have to wait and see. But given the demand for a law like this, it does seem likely that it will pass in one form or another! And next, we’ll explain why you don’t need to fear it.
Why remote working benefits employers
This is a somewhat contested topic. Clearly, some jobs can’t be done remotely. But for those that can, there are so many benefits for employers and employees alike. Here are just a few:
Morale: Survey after survey confirms that the option of remote working boosts morale. There’s no commute, and it’s often better for childcare and general work/life balance. And happy workers are more productive and more loyal.
Recruitment: Offering remote or hybrid work significantly increases your recruitment pool. That’s partly because more and more job seekers are explicitly looking for those sorts of jobs. But also, it allows you to recruit from much further afield.
Cost saving: If everyone works in the office all the time, you need space for them. If they don’t, you can start to save on space by hot-desking.
Reduced absenteeism: This is pretty straightforward. Someone who’s under the weather is much more likely to call in sick if they’ve got a long journey.
Productivity: This may be contested, but remote working really can be much more efficient. Home workers have an obvious incentive to work efficiently, as it’s in their interest to get the job done as soon as possible. Of course, they need the technology to make all that possible.
Otherwise, it is true that home workers can be isolated and less productive. So how to ensure that doesn’t happen? That’s what we’ll finish this article on.
What technology do you need for remote working?
This is all about communication, and communication is our speciality. We’ve been in telecoms for over 35 years, and the technology has come on leaps and bounds since then.
Quite simply, we can set you up so that there’s no difference in productivity between working from home and working from the office. It starts with a VoIP phone system. This runs on the internet, so there’s no hard-wiring or line rental.
Since these phone systems are cloud-hosted, you can use them from anywhere. It means your home workers can use your phone system wherever they’re based. And it’s more than just a phone system. It’s a full-featured unified communications platform.
This means your team will have voice, videoconferencing, instant messaging and email in one place, accessible on any device. You can even use call analytics and sampling, to ensure standards are high across the board. Remote collaboration becomes easy, unlocking new levels of productivity.
It’s also highly flexible, scalable and futureproof. Planning to expand or add new users? It’s a few clicks away. The first thing we’ll do is analyse your business, and then start tailoring the solution to your needs. You can find out more about our remote working support here:
Getting your business ready for remote working
We appreciate that some employers are resistant to remote working. But it isn’t going away, and the law is coming. It will be far easier to cope with the change if you get ahead of it. There’s a whole world of benefits when you take that step. To take it with GoldStar, just get in touch.