Government must get serious on right to flexible work

07 July 2022

Labour employment and workers’ rights spokesperson Marie Sherlock insisted that Government must get serious about strengthening remote work legislation, including the right to flexible work from the start of employment, or risk undoing the gains made by working people throughout the pandemic.

Speaking following the publication of the Joint Committee on Enterprise, Trade and Employment’s recommendations on proposed flexible work legislation Senator Marie Sherlock said:

“The committee rightly recognises that the right to flexible work should not be used as a perk for good behaviour and the waiting time of 26 weeks is not appropriate and that the grounds for refusal were too wide. However, there are very real concerns that the Government will move away from a comprehensive and detailed legal framework on a right to request remote work and will devolve these rights into a code of practice to be determined by the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC). This potential hands-off approach threatens to undo the gains working people made during the pandemic by not providing the clear legal framework that these workers need to exercise those rights.

It must be noted that the Committee last week recommended a legislative right to disconnect in its detailed scrutiny of Labour’s Working for Home Bill and this stands in stark contrast to the Government’s approach, which is to have a WRC code of conduct in that area. That is not acceptable and falls short of what workers want, need and deserve.”

The reality is that there is a clear demand to keep the newfound flexibility of the work for better access to employment and a better work life balance. A right to flexible work can, and already has, make work more equal in this country. With female full-time employment rising by an impressive 7.5% in a two-year period between the end of 2019 and 2021, we know that something has happened during the pandemic.

“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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