The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine has spent in the region of €1m facilitate remote working.
Minister Charlie McConalogue, revealed the figure in response to a parliamentary question raised by Independent TD for Laois-Offaly, Carol Nolan.
The figure includes devices purchased for new hires since March 2020 and costs budgeted for computer device replacements.
The DAFM equipped staff with IT hardware and software, including laptops, phones and software licences.
In response to the deputy’s question, the minister said:
“All departments and offices are currently working in line with the government’s COVID-19 guidance, which provides for home working to continue where possible.”
“These purchases will continue to be used as the staff’s primary computer and communications devices, in line with the department’s strategy to enable the future of blended working.”
“As we emerge from the COVID-19 crisis, the department will facilitate a meaningful transition back to the normal place of work, particularly for staff who have been working from home for the majority of the period in question.”
This will involve a gradual phased return of staff to the workplace and will be done in accordance with prevailing public health advice. This transition phase, will involve for many staff, a blend of remote working and attendance in the workplace.
“A central policy framework for blended working in the civil service will be finalised in conjunction with employee representatives in the course of the coming months.”
“This framework will inform the development of organisation-level blended working policies tailored to the specific requirements of each department/office, whilst ensuring a consistency of approach across key policy areas.”
Blended working policy
Following the transition phase-out of the current COVID-19 related arrangements, the DAFM intends to introduce a blended working policy in April 2022, in line with the timeframe agreed by the government.
“The purpose of this departmental policy will be to facilitate an element of remote working, in tandem with attendance at the workplace, within a formalised structure that supports the business needs of the department.”
“Staff will be entitled to apply for blended working, and all applications will be considered bearing in mind the suitability of the applicant and the role for blended working arrangements, as well as the needs of the relevant team and business area.”
“Work is ongoing on the development of the policy. This will continue to involve significant and appropriate consultation with key stakeholders, including staff, unions and management, before agreement, publication and implementation.”
“Engagement with state agencies under the aegis of DAFM has been ongoing with a view to facilitating a broad consistency of approach, and this engagement will continue to be maintained,” McConalogue concluded.