Employment law expert Deirdre Lynch of Pinsent Masons said the 2023 Work Life Balance and Miscellaneous Provisions Act (43 pages / 569KB PDF), signed into law by the Irish president in April, provides “a framework for employees and employers to engage constructively concerning remote working arrangements and to find solutions that work for both parties. While the Act has not yet come into force, employers should now consider the changes they will need to make to ensure their compliance with it.”
When the Act comes into force, employers will be obliged to consider remote working requests made by employees in accordance with it. An employee must have at least six months’ continuous service before starting a remote working arrangement. When considering a request, employers will be required to take business needs and employee needs into account, as well as the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) Code of Practice, which is yet to be published.
Employers will have to stick to particular timelines when considering requests and, once one is approved, will be required to prepare an agreement detailing the arrangement. If an employer refuses a request, they will be required to notify the employee of the reasons for the refusal. The grounds for refusal of a remote working request are not set out in the Act.
Anna Hollywood of Pinsent Masons said: “The Act acknowledges that remote working may not be feasible in all circumstances and it therefore seeks to balance the right of employees to request remote working against the right of employers to refuse the request in certain circumstances.”
Employers will also be able to terminate a remote working arrangement if it is having a substantial adverse effect on the operation of the business because of, for example, seasonal variations in work volume. If an employer believes an employee is abusing their remote working arrangement, the employer will be able terminate the arrangement by written notice.
Hollywood said: “In common with other employment legislation, the Act also protects employees from ‘penalisation’ for proposing to exercise, or having exercised, their right to request remote working. The definition of penalisation is broad.” Employees will also be able to complain to the WRC if they believe their employer has breached their entitlements under the Act.
Compensation of up to four weeks’ pay can be awarded in cases where an employer is found to have breached the provisions of the Act relating to remote working. The WRC can also direct employers to comply with their obligations under the Act.