Cross Party support for legal Right to Disconnect – Government must listen and act

29 June 2022

Labour employment spokesperson and member of the Joint Committee on Enterprise Trade and Employment Marie Sherlock has said government must enact the recommendations made by the Committee on working from home without delay.

Following cross party support for a legislative right to disconnect, as well as modernising key aspects of employment law to take account of flexible and remote work, Senator Sherlock said it is very clear that there is major work to be done to bring our employment law and health and safety laws up to date with the new realities of work.

Senator Sherlock said:

“Labour welcomes the detailed scrutiny of our Working from Home Bill 2020. Our bill had three key provisions; (i) a right to disconnect, (ii) a recognition that health and safety laws must be updated to reflect that people are working from home and not just in an employer’s office and (iii) that proper provision must be made in respect of the costs of working from home, given that the costs are shifted from the the employer to the employee.

“Today the Committee published its recommendations to Government which were agreed on a cross party basis between Government and Opposition.

“There was cross party recognition that the WRC code of conduct on a Right to Disconnect is not sufficient and that there are not penalties for failing to have company policy on it.

“There was recognition that a review must be instigated out of Health and Safety laws and that the system of tax reliefs and employer payments in respect of working from home, must be overhauled.

“The CSO’s Personal and Work-Life Balance Survey published in April shows that employees who worked remotely, either during the pandemic or pre Covid-19, had higher job and life satisfaction ratings, when compared with those who had not worked remotely. However we also need to ensure that sufficient protections are in place. To date, we know that most contracts of employment do not provide for out of hours communications yet there is lots of research to suggest that working days are being stretched longer and that lines can be blurred when people opt to work remotely.

“By inserting specific parameters on out of hours communications into workers contracts and ensuring that they are paid if they have to work above and beyond, we can ensure that junior workers are better treated and  protected.

“The ‘always on’ problem arises because of exploitation and culture. Updating the law would put clear protections in place, following best practice in countries like France, Spain, Italy and Belgium.

 “We need to ensure that the world of work works for people in Ireland today. Let’s see it happen on a legislative basis now.”

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