The government has published Ireland’s first National Remote Work Strategy to make remote working a permanent option for life after the pandemic.
The strategy sets out plans to strengthen the rights and responsibilities of employers and employees, to provide the infrastructure to work remotely, and sets out clear guidance on how people can be empowered to work remotely from the office.
Benefits of remote working
Publishing the Remote Work Strategy, Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Leo Varadkar TD, said:
“Working from home has become the norm for many in 2020. We want remote, blended, and flexible working arrangements a much bigger part of life after Covid.”
“We’ve seen that there can be huge benefits – more flexibility, less commuting, more time for family and friends.
“It’s better for the transport emissions, and for quality of life, but it has to be done right. Employment rights need to be updated, we need to give guidance, and in many cases, we need to provide actual physical working space.”
“It also requires a cultural shift in favour of facilitating it as an option. This plan shows how we will bring all those parts together. I think it will make a real difference to people’s working lives.”
Headline actions of the Remote Work Strategy include:
- Legislate to provide employees the right to request remote working
- Introduce a legally admissible code of practice on the right to disconnect from work – covering phone calls, emails, and switch-off time
- Invest in remote work hubs, ensuring they are in locations that suit commuters and are close to childcare facilities
- Explore the acceleration of the National Broadband Plan
- Review the treatment of remote working for the purposes of tax and expenditure in the next Budget
- Lead by example by mandating that home and remote working should be the norm for 20% of public sector employees
These actions will be completed over the course of 2021. An Implementation Group will be formed to monitor the progress of the actions with meetings being held every four months.
The strategy was developed under the guidance of a broad Interdepartmental Group consisting of Government Departments and State Agencies.
The research for the Strategy draws from the findings of the 2019 Remote Work in Ireland report, the results of the Public Consultation on Remote Work Guidance, and new research carried out on the topic in 2020.
Remote working in rural Ireland
The Minister for Rural and Community Development, Heather Humphreys TD welcomed the publication of the strategy.
She said remote or connected working, underpinned by the roll-out of the National Broadband Plan, has the potential to transform rural Ireland.
“It can breathe new life into our rural towns and villages because people who have been forced to commute to large urban centres every day are now working locally.”
“And it can help us to retain young people in rural areas by opening up the opportunity for them to pursue good careers while continuing to live in their local areas, no matter where their employer is based.”
Remote working hubs
“As part of the Remote Work Strategy launched by the Tánaiste, my Department is developing a national network of remote co-working spaces which will support companies and workers who want to access serviced remote working facilities across the country.”
“We are also developing an app which will enable workers to book a desk in any of the hubs in the network through a common booking engine.”
“The government has invested significantly in remote working hubs and enterprise spaces over the last number of years, including through my Department, and the Remote Working Strategy includes a commitment to make further significant investment in remote working infrastructure.
“Remote working, whether from home or from a shared co-working hub, has been accelerated by COVID-19, but it will be a feature of the world of work in the future.”
She said it will open up new possibilities for people living in rural Ireland and will be a cornerstone of the new Rural Development Policy which she will publish shortly.