Opposition TDs criticise government’s ‘toothless’ remote working Bill – Dundalk Democrat

Opposition TDs have criticised limitations of the government’s remote working Bill, calling it “toothless” and “anaemic”. 

Deputy Ged Nash made the comments during Private Members’ Business in the Dáil today (Wednesday March 9) and said it was “a charter for refusal”. 

The Right to Request Remote Working Bill 2021 was published in January 2022, providing for the first time a legal framework around which requesting, approving or refusing a request for remote work can be based. 

At the time, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said, “We have a real opportunity now to change the norm and learn what we can from the pandemic.” 

The Bill stipulates all workplaces must have a written statement which sets out the company’s Remote Working Policy. 

According to Deputy Nash – who believes the government’s plan should be scrapped – his constituents were “dragged” back into offices at a time when the cost of filling a car “went stratospheric”. 

He said, “Draft legislation the government has produced says in effect you can ask to work remotely but your boss can tell you to go whistle, and you have no right to challenge the grounds for refusal. That is frankly bizarre.” 

However, the Bill reportedly provides a right of appeal option to the Workplace Relations Commission if an employee feels an employer has not provided reasonable grounds for refusal. 

Labour leader candidate, Deputy Ivana Bacik, said remote working will benefit not only the environment due to a reduction in carbon emissions from commuting, but also women, stating, “It has great feminist benefits.” 

She said, “Women continue to bear the lion’s share of domestic responsibilities. This is an opportunity to engage in hybrid working to allow more women to participate; indeed, men working from home [will be able to] take up more responsibilities as carers and fathers.” 

According to Deputy Bacik, remote working will encourage growth in local communities and improve quality of life. 

She said,” People will be able to move out of City Centre locations and work from home closer to family and closer to original local communities. The benefits are clear for a genuine right to work.” 

Although the deputy admits climate action requires more than remote working, she said it will “genuinely mean less people on the roads and better air quality”.

She said it was particularly important at times of concern about energy security. 

Colleague Brendan Howlin TD brought up the price constraints of commuting to work and said many people can no longer afford to fill up their tank due to rising fuel prices. 

He said, “The two litre fuel price is making work unaffordable.” 

According to Deputy Duncan Smith, who also spoke today in the Dáil, if Ireland is serious about lowering emissions the government needs “to give workers more power to work from home or remotely”. 

He said the move will help maintain a better work-life balance and rejuvenate local communities. 

However, he said the option to work remotely should not be used as “a reward” for good behaviour or as a perk. 

“It is the future, the future is here now. We cannot go back,” he said. 

Minister Robert Troy – who has special responsibility for Trade Promotion – confirmed the government will not oppose the motion. 

He said, “The government wants remote work to be a much broader part of life. [It is] very much here to stay.” 

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