Code of Practice on the Right to Request Remote Working

June 18, 2023

The Workplace Relations Commission WRC invited interested parties to make submissions to inform the development of a Code under the Work Life Balance and Miscellaneous Provisions Act. Under the Act four new distinct employee rights, have been introduce, the introduction of 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.

The new Act provides a legal framework for requesting, approving, or refusing a request for flexible or remote working but not an automatic right. The SFA believes that company level actions tend to be more effective, as they are tailored to the needs of the business and its employees. Therefore, we support the creation of a Code, as it will allow company-level agreements between employers and workers to promote and manage requests for flexible and remote working.

The SFA submission drew the WRC to the following points.

  • Existing legislation in the areas of GDPR, health and safety and protected family leave entitlements.
  • WRC’s Code of Practice for Employers and Employers on the Right to Disconnect.
  • HSA’s Occupational Safety and Health Guidance on Remote Working.
  • Different workplaces need to be accounted for, for example education and care setting, in which remote working may not be suitable.
  • Differing needs of workers need to be accounted for.
  • Flexibility in terms of productivity and responsiveness is essential to companies’ competitiveness, particularly those operating globally.
  • The negative impact of remote working for example, work related stress, difficulties maintaining boundaries between home and work, social isolation, managing change in work, bullying etc.
  • That requests for fully remote or hybrid working will have different considerations.
  • Return to work situations i.e. after illness, long term illness, protected family leave or where occupational health have indicated mental wellbeing needs or work related stress symptoms.
  • Access to broadband and infrastructure in regional and remote locations.

The Code of Practice should facilitate company level actions that comply with the requirements of the Act. By doing so employers are better able to ensure tailored solutions which are both appropriate to their business models, and the needs of their employees.

The Code of Practice should:

  • Allow employers to require employees to use a precedent form or template to make a request for flexible and remote working.
  • Contain information on what type of further information an employer may seek when considering a request.
  • Allow employers and employees to meet to discuss a request where necessary.
  • Include information for employers and employees on what is and isn’t suitable, as a proposed remote working location.
  • Contain information and examples of the type of information to be included in an employer’s written agreement to a request.
  • Provide employers with examples of notices informing an employee that a request has been refused.
  • Direct employers to information and training on handling information submitted about the person whom the request for a flexible working arrangement for caring purposes is made.
  • Include non-exhaustive examples of grounds for terminating an approved remote working arrangement where the employer believes that abuse of the flexible or remote working arrangement is taking place.
  • Direct employers and employees to information and training on workplace wellbeing.

To share your views on this topic or to raise any other policy concerns contact, Elizabeth Bowen, SFA Public Affairs Lead, on 01 6051530 or elizabeth.bowen@sfa.ie.