Remote Working Strategy – Likely Consequences and Pitfalls

Remote Working Strategy – Likely Consequences and Pitfalls

 

Introduction

Earlier this year, the Government published its National Remote Work Strategy, with specific targets set out for legislative changes to be met by year-end.

In its current form, this strategy would represent the biggest change to how we think about work in a generation.

This represents a big challenge and opportunity to employer and employee alike. In order to best support our clients, we’ve examined the strategy in full, and considered likely outcomes.

 

Current Proposals

The strategy as presented by the Government is at present just that – a strategy. The final version won’t be available until later in the year, when the legislation will be published in full. Even then, the bill will be subject to amendment by opposition parties and backbenchers, amendments which would in all likelihood favour employees.

Many aspects of this strategy will be broadly welcomed, and will be universally popular with employers and employees alike.

  • Specific funding for remote working hubs
  • Ramping up the rollout of high-speed broadband
  • Commitment to examine tax reliefs for remote employees

 

Legal Rights

The key part, a proposal to legislate for the right to disconnect – paves the way for employees to formally disengage from work outside normal working hours. Once approved by the Tánaiste, this will be admissible in evidence in court proceedings.

In addition, plans are in motion to give employees the legal right to request to work remotely. This would be a permanent measure, unconnected from the current pandemic.

While employers would not be required to acquiesce, a request refusal without good grounds attached from employers could create exposure to a case before the Workplace Relations Commission.

 

Key takeaways

  • It is incredibly important for employers to be aware of these impending legislative changes, and to plan ahead as to how they will respond accordingly.
  • Speaking to candidates, it is clear the appetite is there for partial remote working long-term, but recent trends suggest the buoyant enthusiasm that remote working enjoyed in 2020 has been stripped back somewhat.
  • Ultimately, the success of the Remote Working Strategy will be determined by the efforts of employers and employees alike.
  • Now is the time to consider the implications of this legislation, and how best to respond.

Conclusions

The introduction of smarter thinking and less prescriptive commentary around tax reliefs and supports to facilitate remote working outside large urban areas from senior Ministers is welcome, and long overdue.

However, caution is needed from the perspectives of both employers and employees respectively. Recent surveys have suggested an increasing lethargy on the part of workers with full-remote working, and anecdotally there is a growing momentum in favour of the office. Legislative proposals in their current form will impose significant new legal implications on employers, and could make hiring a more laborious and challenging process.

 

From speaking to candidates and clients alike in recent weeks, there is a growing awareness of the significance of these legislative changes. Employers are facing tough decisions in the coming months. The cautious approach many of our clients have adopted is certainly a prudent measure.

In the past year we’ve seen dramatic changes, and it would be foolish to boldly predict where the future will take us.

If you’d like to discuss any of these trends in more detail or are thinking of hiring in 2021 please get in touch, our team of expert recruitment specialists would be happy to advise.