Right to Request Remote Working and the Work Life Balance and Miscellaneous Provisions Bill
The Work Life Balance and Miscellaneous Provisions Bill was announced earlier this year. The Bill is intended to give effect to the EU Work Life Balance Directive 2019/1158 which was due to be transposed into Irish law by August 2022. The Government have recently announced plans to integrate the Right to Request Remote Working into the Work Life Balance Bill.
Work Life Balance and Miscellaneous Provisions Bill 2022 – Background:
The Bill, as currently drafted, is intended to provide further statutory entitlements to both parents and carers in order to support a better work-life balance.
The key changes included in the current draft of the Bill are as follows:
- The introduction of five days unpaid leave per year for medical care purposes
- A right to request flexible working arrangements for caring purposes
- The extension of the current entitlement to breastfeeding breaks under the Maternity Protection Acts from six months to two years
- The introduction of five days Domestic Violence leave.
Integration of the Right to Request Remote Working into the Bill:
On 9 November 2022 the Government approved the integration of the Right to Request Remote Work for all workers into the Work Life Balance and Miscellaneous Provisions Bill. The amended Bill is expected to be delivered by the end of this year.
The decision to scrap the Right to Request Remote Working Bill published in January 2022 was made against a backdrop of widespread criticism with the right to request remote working legislation being described as “fatally flawed” by Fórsa and the Irish Congress of Trade Unions. The legislation was criticised for being weighted in favour of the employer as there were 13 specific grounds upon which an employer could refuse a request for remote working.
It was, therefore, decided by the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise Trade and Employment, Leo Varadkar, and the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Roderic O’Gorman, that rather than passing separate pieces of legislation, amending the Work Life Balance Bill, which is already well advanced in the Oireachtas, was the most “efficient and practical way” to introduce the right to request remote working for all workers.
Integrating the Right to Request Remote Work into the Work Life Balance Bill means that employees will now be making requests for flexible or remote work and employers will be considering such requests for flexible or remote work under one piece of legislation and one Code of Practice to be developed by the WRC. It has been confirmed that the Code of Practice will be placed on a Statutory footing and is expected to include guidance for both employers and employees. The Department of Trade Enterprise and Employment have stated that it is hoped this will “streamline the process and will help avoid inconsistencies and confusion”.
It has also been confirmed that employees will be able to make a complaint to the Workplace Relations Commission where their employer has not complied with the Code of Practice. Commentary suggests the Government plans to set the maximum compensation at four weeks’ pay in circumstances where a worker successfully appeals their case following a refusal of their request for remote working.
Although the wording to be included in the integrated Bill regarding requests for remote working has yet to be published, the following has been confirmed by the Department regarding the amendment:
- Under the integrated Bill, remote working will be defined as one type of flexible working. All employees will have a right to request remote working.
- The right to request any other type of flexible working, such as reduced working hours or adjusted working patterns, will remain limited to Parents and Carers, as defined in the Bill, which will be reviewed after two years.
- Under the integrated Bill, the previous grounds will be replaced by an obligation on the employer to consider both their needs and the needs of employees when considering a request. Employers will also be required to have regard to a Code of Practice.