Labour will legislate to defend pandemic flexible working gains

04 February 2022

The Labour Party has today confirmed it will legislate to defend the gains made by people who worked remotely and experienced the benefits of flexible working arrangements throughout the pandemic.

The legislation, drafted by Labour Party spokesperson on Workers’ Rights, Senator Marie Sherlock, will place a real obligation on employers to provide evidence-based answers why an employee must return to the workplace if productivity has been maintained during their time working remotely due to pandemic restrictions.

Senator Marie Sherlock said:

“The Labour Party is fully committed to publishing legislation to provide workers with a ‘right to flexible work’. We will be raising this issue at the Oireachtas Committee on Enterprise, Trade and Employment next Wednesday (9th February) as politicians engage in the pre-legislative scrutiny stage of the Bill announced by the Government last week on remote working.

“There is massive interest in this issue from workers, women’s organisations, trade unions, disability groups and climate change campaigners. We have been talking to a number of civil society representatives and industrial relations experts who share our dismay at what amounts to a ‘right to refuse flexible work’ Bill proposed by the Government last week.

“In light of these serious conversations, we are planning to work with a wide a coalition to draw up the best legislative proposal that benefits the economy, environment, families and communities. It is crucial that we get this new era of flexible and remote working off on a sustainable and firm footing.

“One measure which will be central to our forthcoming Bill is that there is a means by which workers who have successfully fulfilled their duties while working from home throughout the pandemic cannot have these new improved work practices merely dismissed by their employers with a demand to return to the office.”

She added:

“The future of how work in Ireland is organised is one of the great issues of our times. We have seen perhaps 15 years of change pushed into two years. It is our intention to work with a broad coalition who are committed to not turning the clock back in terms of work in Ireland but rather seeking to create a Right to Flexible Work which is in the best interests of women, low paid workers, families, local communities and our environment.”

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