The Irish Government previously published an integrated version of the Work Life Balance and Miscellaneous Provisions Bill, which has now been signed into law by the Irish President (the Act).
The Act provides for four new distinct employee rights:
- The right to request flexible working for caregiving purposes
- The right to unpaid leave relating to medical care
- The right to paid domestic violence leave, and
- The right to request remote working.
It is expected that the relevant sections of the Act will come into effect over the coming months.
In November 2022, we summarised the main provisions of the previous version of the Work Life Balance Bill covering (1) the right to request flexible working for caregiving purposes, (2) the right to unpaid leave relating to medical care and (3) the right to paid domestic violence leave. We noted the fact that despite the press statements and media coverage relating to the Bill, it didn’t actually provide for a general right to request remote working.
We set out a summary of the new right to request remote work that is included in the Act.
Right to request remote work
In January 2022, we summarised the provisions of the Right to Request Remote Working Bill published by the government The general view at the time was that it was somewhat toothless and it attracted a significant amount of criticism. We also flagged, in November 2022, the fact that no general right to request remote working was included in the previous iteration of the Work Life Balance and Miscellaneous Provisions Bill.
The right to request remote working has been inserted into the Act which provides employees with the right to make a request to work remotely, and for that request to be dealt with quickly and transparently.
Considering a request
When considering a request to work remotely from an employee, employers are obliged to consider:
- Both the needs of the business and the needs of the employee, and
- The provisions of a code of practice, which is yet to be published
Employers must then, within a stipulated timeframe, either approve the request or set out grounds for refusing the request.
Where an employee believes their employer has not complied with the provisions of the Act, an employee will be able to lodge a complaint with the WRC. An adjudicator may then direct the employer to take a certain course of action and/or award compensation to the complaining employee of up to 4 weeks’ remuneration.
Again, there doesn’t appear to be any clear mechanism for an employee to complain about the reasons for an employer’s refusal to agree to remote working arrangements.
Employers should familiarise themselves with the provisions of the Act. Interestingly, while the original draft legislation around the right to request remote working sought to place an obligation on employers to have a remote working policy in place, there is no mention of any such policy in the Act. That said, employers should also consider updating their employee handbooks/policies to reflect the new rights contained in the Act, including the right to request flexible working, remote working, unpaid leave for medical care and paid domestic violence leave.
For more information on the likely implications on your business, contact a member of our Employment & Benefits team.
The content of this article is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal or other advice.