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2022 Spring Legislation Programme Published

The Government’s priority legislation for this term covers numerous areas, including workers’ rights for a work-life balance, consumer rights, electricity costs, overhauling the gambling sector, climate action, regulation of sale of e-cigarettes, digital recording and remedying defective housing. The full programme is available here.

We take a closer look at some of these areas:

Workers’ rights

The Right to Request Remote Work Bill introduces the right to request remote working. It does not provide for a right to work remotely, although it does oblige employers to have a framework in place to deal with these requests. As discussed in our recent article on the Bill, employers are required to deal with these requests and respond in writing within 12 weeks. Employees cannot be penalised for making a request to work remotely. They will be able to make a complaint to the Workplace Relations Commission if their employer does not respond to the request within the time limit, or if they fail to give reasons for the decision.

Healthcare sector

Five bills related to Health are included in the programme. Of note are the following:

The Public Health (Tobacco and Nicotine Inhaling Products) Bill aims to introduce a licensing system for the sale of related products including e-cigarettes. The Heads of this Bill were approved in 2019 and pre-legislative scrutiny has taken place.

The Health (Adult Safeguarding) Bill will underpin a national health sector policy on safeguarding vulnerable or at-risk adults in the context of their interactions with the health sector. This will include establishing a National Adult Safeguarding Authority. The Authority may, if it believes on reasonable grounds that there is a risk of abuse or harm to an at-risk adult, undertake appropriate investigations. It may also provide for an independent advocate to be available to support and represent any individual who is the subject of an investigation.

The Birth Information and Tracing Bill will give adopted persons automatic rights to information about their background. It provides a right of access to birth certificates and to early life information for all persons who were adopted. It also provides for the establishment of a Contact Preference Register through which people can register their preference relating to contact with a child or genetic relative.

Climate Action

The Circular Economy Bill provides a legislative basis for certain actions under the 2020 Waste Action Plan for a Circular Economy. The Bill defines “circular economy” as an economic model where resources are kept in use for as long as possible and the maximum value is extracted from those resources. The Bill also provides for the GDPR compliant use of CCTV and other technology in waste enforcement activities. The Heads of this Bill were approved in June 2021.

Local Government

The Electoral Reform Bill is a significant piece of legislation, which aims to establish a statutory, independent Electoral Commission.

Justice

The Policing, Security and Community Safety Bill aims to significantly transform policing in Ireland with a new governance structure for An Garda Síochána. This will involve:

  • Stronger powers for the Garda Commissioner
  • The strengthening of external, independent oversight of the Gardaí by the establishment of a new Policing Authority, and
  • The enhancement of the powers of GSOC (An Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission) to ensure the safety of society

The European Convention on Human Rights (Compensation for Delays in Court Proceedings) Bill provides for statutory compensation for breach of the right to a fair trial within a reasonable time.

The Gambling Regulation Bill proposes to establish a Gambling Regulator and provides for a “modern approach to the licencing of gambling activities”.

Public Expenditure and Reform

The Protected Disclosures (Amendment) Bill will enhance current whistleblowing measures, by widening the scope of individuals who are afforded protection under the Protected Disclosures Act 2014 and extending the definition of 'penalisation'. As detailed in our previous article on the Bill, the 2014 Act broadly defines 'penalisation' as “any act or omission that affects a worker to the worker’s detriment” including suspension, lay-off or dismissal, or unfair treatment. The Bill proposes that penalisation will include a negative performance assessment and failure to convert a temporary employment contract into a permanent one.

The Regulation of Lobbying (Amendment) Bill will amend and strengthen the Regulation of Lobbying Act 2015, by extending the class of persons to which it applies and increasing its enforcement.

The spring 2022 legislative programme is wide-ranging in scope with many proposed priority reforms underway. A number of these are in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the myriad ways it has affected society in Ireland and worldwide. The Right to Request Remote Work Bill will likely be particularly pressing as we emerge from pandemic restrictions and begin to return to the office. Minister Chambers remarked that “the bills prioritised will enable our country to continue to overcome the challenges we face”. It remains to be seen whether this will be the case, and whether all of the bills will in fact be published.

If you would like to discuss the likely impact the anticipated legislation will have on your organisation, please contact a member of our Public, Regulatory & Investigations team.

The content of this article is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal or other advice.



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