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The Irish Congress of Trade Unions has called on Government to commit to a review of employment legislation to ensure protections are fit for purpose for remote working in the post-pandemic world of work.

As workplaces reopen some workers have expressed an interest in continuing to work remotely, but as yet there is no right in Ireland to flexible work.

ICTU’s Social Policy Officer Dr Laura Bambrick said that workers’ hard-won rights must be preserved when working from home. 

Dr Bambrick said that protections need to keep pace with changes in ways of working, and gaps in law closed. 

“What is urgently needed is a more ambitious public consultation on remote working than that recently launched by the Department of Business,” she added.

She said that many workers have expressed an interest to continue remote working. 

But unlike workers across the EU, in the UK and Northern Ireland, Irish workers have no legal right to work flexibly, including working from home.

Under current law, remote working is solely at the discretion of the employer.

“The need for flexibility must be balanced with the needs of the business. Not all jobs can be done from home. What a statutory right to request flexible working does is require bosses to deal with workers request in a reasonable and considered manner,” she said.

Dr Bambrick also said that for other workers, the mass home-working experiment has been “fraught”. 

Higher utility and broadband costs are among the most common complaints reported to trade union reps.

“Remote workers should not have to carry the cost of doing business, whether in the form of higher household bills or the daily desk charge at a digital hub,” Dr Bambrick said. 

She said that ICTU is calling for a review of the adequacy of the €3.20 tax-free daily expense allowance paid by employers to homeworkers, and for payment of this allowance to be made mandatory.

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