Govt flexible work plans not worth the paper they’re written on

28 January 2022

Time to scrap Govt plans and start again

Labour employment spokesperson Marie Sherlock has said government must rip up their flexible work plans and start again to ensure a employees have a right to flexible work. Following the publication of the unworkable proposals by Tánaiste Varadkar this week, Senator Sherlock said it is vital that we protect the gains that have arisen for many workers during the pandemic with regard to a better work life balance and less commuting and lower financial, carbon and health costs of being on the road.

Senator Sherlock said:

“Government’s flexible work bill published this week is being set up to fail. Rather than providing a right to flexible working for employees, it represents a right to refuse same for employers. The Heads of Bill presented by the Tánaiste merely amount to the declaration of a “free for all” end to the pandemic work from home recommendation.

“Doing so would be incredibly short sighted and damaging not just for the many individual workers who have reaped the benefits of flexible work, but for the economy which has seen female participation in the Irish labour force had increased by three and a half percentage points since the start of the pandemic to stand at a record 59.8 per cent.

“The Central Bank reported this week that over the two years that span the pandemic (2020 and 2021), full-time female employment has increased by 7 per cent or 56,000, while part-time female employment has risen by 10 per cent or 34,000. While then Taoiseach Varadkar committed to “removing the barriers” that prevent many women from staying in the workforce at the #WorkEqual Conference in late 2019, his approach to this workers’ rights issue tells a different story.

“Unfortunately, the Government has shown no ambition at all in attempting to develop the positive gains for workers, their communities and the environment, of the new forward-facing work practices they have been created and adapted to during the two dark years of the pandemic. The proposed right to request flexible work is not the paper it is written on as the grounds for refusal are so broad and the right to appeal, toothless. Workers cannot appeal the grounds for the refusal, they can only appeal the process – whether their employer engaged with them or not.

“There is literally nothing in them that will benefit workers or help our society maintain gains in terms of health, work-life balance, greater involvement by women in the workforce, a reduction in carbon emissions, traffic congestion, that result from more workers working remotely on a permanent or flexible basis.

“In reality, the government’s proposals would introduce a system in relation to remote and flexible working which is actually worse for workers than the legislation which was imposed on Britain by the Tories, on which it is modelled. Labour instead proposes that legislation enshrining a right for workers, who have proven their ability to work successfully remotely, to maintain flexible working arrangements.

“The government proposals published this week are of little value and the Labour Party are calling on the Tánaiste to withdraw them to allow for the space for serious discussions on this critical piece of legislation for the future of work in Ireland. It is crucial that working arrangements that have evolved over the past two must be taken into account. Real progress has been made during the pandemic for so many workers. Let’s build on that experience and give workers the right to flexible work, where it has been proven to be made work.”

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