The anticipated move towards more widespread remote working is an opportunity to look afresh at issues around working time and work-life balance, according to Fórsa. The union is preparing to make a submission to a Government consultation on remote working, which was launched yesterday (9th July 2020).
Fórsa will argue that sectoral agreements on home working should protect workers in specific employments, but that these should be based on principles agreed with unions at a national level.
It also says the consultation should encompass a public conversation on the amount of time we spend at work, and the balance between work and other responsibilities. The union has been campaigning for reductions in working time across all sectors of the economy, and has spearheaded the ‘four-day week’ initiative in Ireland.
Fórsa wants to retain the option for remote working – with adequate safeguards – for staff and organisations that want it.
Official figures show that up to a third of employees were working remotely at the height of the Covid-19 public health crisis. Fórsa wants to retain the option for remote working – with adequate safeguards – for staff and organisations that want it.
But the union insists that emergency measures introduced during a crisis cannot simply continue without the negotiation of formal staff protections.
Fórsa issued guidance to members working from home back in May, and the union is currently drawing up a comprehensive negotiators’ guide in anticipation of sectoral talks on remote working policies.
The union’s advice covers health and safety, employers’ responsibilities, work-life balance, staying connected with the workplace, childcare, mental health, security, data protection and other issues.
The extended period of home working has been a new experience for most workers and their organisations, but it is widely expected to become a more normal part of working life in Ireland and elsewhere.
A recent survey found that only 12% of business leaders believe all their staff will return to work premises once Covid-19 restrictions are eased. Almost a third said they were considering downsizing office space, while 40% predicted an equal mix of staff working in the office and remotely.
Fórsa general secretary Kevin Callinan said the union wanted to maintain the option for home working for those who wanted it. But he said a structured approach with proper safeguards was now required.
“Many workers have established a productive and rewarding remote routine, but it can be a struggle for others whose accommodation or personal circumstances don’t support this way of working.
Many workers have established a productive and rewarding remote routine, but it can be a struggle for others whose accommodation or personal circumstances don’t support this way of working.
“Fórsa wants to preserve the benefits of remote working for staff, their employers and the environment. But we need to ensure that proper safeguards are in place, and that the criteria for determining who works at home include an element of choice and a recognition that some people are just unable to sustain remote working for long periods of time.
“This is also an opportunity to look afresh at issues around working time and work-life balance, and Fórsa wants to ensure that this isn’t lost in the public conversation or in negotiations with employers,” he said.
The union also says remote working shouldn’t harm workers’ career prospects or weaken employment relationships.
The Government consultation is being conducted by the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation, which says it will produce guidance for employers and employees on foot of the exercise.
Read Fórsa’s remote working guidelines HERE.
Get more on the Government’s consultation HERE.