Fórsa has welcomed a new policy that gives all civil servants the right to apply for remote or blended working under a new framework agreed between unions and the Department of Public Expenditure and reform (DPER).
The union said it now wants the framework to be quickly rolled out across the entire civil and public service.
The framework does not guarantee blended work arrangements for all who apply, but workers will be able to have the decision reviewed if they are turned down, with a view to resolving the issues that led to the refusal to facilitate remote work.
It’s envisaged that the framework, which requires all civil service departments and offices to develop a blended working policy, will provide a template for the roll-out of agreed blended work policies across the entire civil and public service.
Fórsa says it is seeking immediate discussions in the local authority, health and non-commercial state sectors with a view to rapidly reaching similar agreements.
The new civil service framework says departmental policies must set out a decision-making process that ensures a consistent approach to assessing applications, and which ensures “fairness across the organisation.”
It places a responsibility on managers to ensure a “fair and effective” system with strong supports, staff development, communications, and effective performance management.
It places a responsibility on managers to ensure a “fair and effective” system with strong supports, staff development, communications, and effective performance management. And it says there can be no change to a worker’s pay and working conditions on the basis that they have blended working arrangements.
It also requires employers to conduct health and safety assessments, which it says should determine specific risks and outline any information or training needs. And it says employers should provide the necessary equipment to home workers.
It envisages three-six month ‘initial trials’ once an individual is approved for blended working, and says individual remote work arrangements should be regularly reviewed.
The framework insists that customer service, standards and performance “must never be compromised in order to facilitate remote working.” An individual’s performance standards, timekeeping and attendance will be among the criteria considered when deciding if blended working will be facilitated. If refused, an employee can seek a review of the process.
The framework does not allow for civil service departments to pay allowances towards the additional costs associated with working from home. Instead, the policy refers staff to the recently-enhanced tax reliefs available on energy, heating and wifi costs. Fórsa says it will continue to seek the payment of an allowance in future talks, but that it has not sought arbitration on the issue now as a referral would be certain to stall implementation of the broader framework.
The framework means we can now quickly roll out blended working arrangements in the civil service and, indeed, the wider public service.
The head of the union’s Civil Service Division, Derek Mullen, led the union side in the negotiations that led to the agreed framework. “We have achieved a framework that meets virtually all the union’s priorities in developing a fair and transparent approach to remote working within the timeframe set down for these talks. It means we can now quickly roll out blended working arrangements in the civil service and, indeed, the wider public service.
The head of Fórsa’s Civil Service Division, Derek Mullen, who led the union side in the negotiations, said the experience of remote working during the Covid-19 emergency had demonstrated that many roles can be carried out remotely in ways that are productive, cost-effective and attractive to employers and their staff.
“It’s now over a year since the Government published its national remote working strategy, which said remote working would become the norm for 20% of public sector staff. As the biggest employer in the State, the public service must take a leading role in making remote and blended work part of post-Covid working life,” he said.
Read the blended work framework document HERE.