Ireland’s largest public service union has welcomed today’s (Tuesday’s) Cabinet decision to legislate for a right to request remote working. But Fórsa said the legislation must establish reasonable, fair and transparent criteria for deciding which roles are suitable for remote or blended work, and for refusing requests for flexible work arrangements.
The union said “business grounds” for refusing remote working, which are planned for inclusion in the legislation, are too broad.
It said the inclusion of grounds like “potential negative impact on quality,” “potential negative impact on performance” and “planned structural change” would create loopholes that could allow employers turn down requests for no objective or proven reason.
Fórsa general secretary Kevin Callinan said that, while some work functions could not be performed on a remote basis, the legislation should not allow employers to refuse flexible work arrangements on spurious grounds.
“We expect the legislation to support the consistent application of guidelines for identifying functions that can be performed remotely, and for facilitating staff requests for home-working arrangements unless there is a genuine reason to refuse.
“Fórsa and other unions have long sought legislation in this area, and the experience of the pandemic has shown that remote working does not negatively impact on productivity, performance, quality or data security.
Employers must not have the option of simply turning down requests on spurious or vague grounds.
“Employers must not have the option of simply turning down requests on spurious or vague grounds. Instead, they must be required to demonstrate, in a concrete way, that remote or blended arrangements are unworkable before they can turn down a request,” he said.
Mr Callinan also called for an acceleration of work on agreeing a framework for remote working in the civil and public service.
“It’s now over a year since the Government published it 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 needs to take a leading role in making remote and blended work part of post-Covid working life,” he said.
Fórsa says the experience of remote working during the Covid-19 emergency has demonstrated that many roles can be carried out remotely in ways that are productive, cost-effective and attractive to employers and their staff.
“Workers value the flexibility that remote working can bring, while managers cite access to talent, improved productivity and cost savings as benefits. Enhanced remote working also has huge potential to boost climate action and regional development,” said Mr Callinan.