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Employers misreading the appetite for remote and flexible work

03 July 2022

Labour employment spokesperson Marie Sherlock has urged government to take account of the views of workers and provide clear legal protections for remote and flexible working.

Responding to Dublin Chamber’s call to delay government’s working from home bill, Senator Sherlock said employers must step into the reality of the changing nature of work and use it as an opportunity to recruit a broader source of skills and expertise.

Senator Sherlock said:

“Workplaces have changed irrevocably as a result to the overnight shift to flexible and remote working. Rather than seeing this as a cost, employers must see flexile work as an opportunity to recruit from a much boarder source of skills and expertise. Working people want to keep this flexibility which is why we need to build a fair legislative framework for this.

“The reality is that the Government produced very narrow and rigid draft legislation in January and despite promises to make changes, we have yet to see anything substantial that suggests anything other than tokenistic changes will be made. Government’s bill essentially offered a right to refuse requests for remote work to employers. This flies in the face of what the workforce is calling out for.

"The CSO's Personal and Work-Life Balance Survey published in April shows that employees who worked remotely, either during the pandemic or pre Covid-19, had higher job and life satisfaction ratings, when compared with those who had not worked remotely. 92% workers who had worked remotely in the previous 12 months were satisfied or very satisfied with their job.

“Among the key gains from a rights based approach to flexible work will be cutting climate emissions, maintaining a better work/life balance, reducing the cost of living, reducing transport congestion and rejuvenating local communities. These gains far outweigh enterprise level managerial concerns.

“Unfortunately the government and some employers’ groups seem determined to ignore these workers and go back in time through its flexible work legislation. Under government’s proposals, flexible work should be a reward for good behaviour - with employers only asked to consider requests for flexibility after six months of employment. This is simply unacceptable and fails to grasp the reality of how work in Ireland is organised.

“It is disappointing but not surprising to see this reluctance to modernise work in Ireland. The pandemic changed everything and how work in Ireland is organised is now one of the great issues of our times. We have seen perhaps 15 years of change pushed into two years. We cannot turn the clock back in terms of work in Ireland, but rather, we must create a Right to Flexible Work which is in the best interests of women, low-paid workers, families, local communities and our environment.”