Labour publishes bill to protect employees working from home

Senator Marie Sherlock
10 November 2020
  • Working from Home (Covid-19) Bill will address the urgent need for reform following the huge increase in remote working caused by the pandemic.
  • New Bill provides for legal right to switch off.
  • Would also require employers to provide suitable home workstation and flat rate payment to cover costs now shouldered by workers.

The Labour Party today published our Working from Home (Covid-19) Bill 2020 which will give workers a right to switch off, and would require employers to provide a suitable home workstation and flat rate payment to cover the costs now shouldered by workers.

Labour Employment Affairs spokesperson Marie Sherlock said:

“Workers must be adequately provided for when working from home with the right equipment, compensated for their home office costs, and given the right to switch off. This Bill provides a legal right to ‘disconnect’ from out of hours communications. Giving workers the right to switch off will stop the blurring of lines between work and home caused by Covid-19.

“Our laws are out of date, and the Covid-19 pandemic has shown the urgent need for reform. Workers shouldn’t be shouldering the many costs of working from home. We’re one of the only EU countries without any modern protection in our employment law for remote working, while there are four EU countries now with the specific right to switch off (France, Spain, Italy and Belgium).

“The right to ‘disconnect’ will mean employers have to clearly set out in writing their policy on out of hours communications, and this would provide workers with access to the protections provided under the Organisation of Working Time Act. So the Bill sets out that an employee is entitled not to engage with electronic communications outside of their normal hours of work but, if they choose to do so, this would count as working time and be subject to the Act.

“Alongside the move to more flexible working, there must in parallel be protections for workers and that’s why we want this put in place now. We also need to put adequate provision in place for those working from home. 

“At the start of this year about 9% or just over 200,000 people were working from home but at the height of the pandemic this rose to nearly 700,000 people.

Many employers adequately provide for workers at home, but too many don’t, and the situation has changed so rapidly that our laws, protections, and compensation haven’t caught up yet with the reality of pandemic work patterns.

“The Labour Bill will require employers to provide a workstation, chair and IT equipment and then mandates employers to pay a flat rate payment. At present payments in respect of working from home are at the discretion of the employer and we can’t allow that to continue.”

Senator Marie Sherlock carried out a survey during the summer of the impact of working from home during the pandemic. Key findings were the lack of suitable workspace at home especially for those renting, the impact on people’s mental health, and the lack of clarity about supports and compensation from employers for the costs of working from home.

ENDS

A copy of the bill is available here: https://www.labour.ie/download/pdf/working_from_home_bill.pdf

The Explanatory memorandum is here: https://www.labour.ie/download/pdf/explanatory_memo_working_from_home.pdf

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