Government finally concedes to Labour flexible work demands

26 October 2022
  • Right to remote and flexible legislation now needs urgent passage

Labour employment spokesperson Marie Sherlock said a right to flexible work is crucial to safeguarding the future of the world of work in Ireland.

Demanding the right to appeal refusal of requests for workers, Senator Sherlock said flexible work is vital to diversify and expand our workforce.

Senator Sherlock said:

“It appears from reports this morning that, at long last, Government is open to rectifying the disastrous legislation it proposed earlier this year on flexible work.

“The legislation as proposed demands substantial changes. It has always been obvious that workers would need a proper right to appeal refusals from employers. The legislation put forward to by Government in January represented an effective right to refuse requests for remote working. It’s vital that this is rectified and it’s welcome to see this realisation dawn on Government.

“Employees who can work from home must have a legal right to do so. We saw the impact this had on our economy during the pandemic, bringing a diverse group of people into the workforce that were previously excluded. Labour developed legislation back in February in tandem with advocacy groups representing women, people with disability, lone parents and many others to support this.

“To keep this going, employers absolutely must not have a blanket right to refuse – as suggested in the original legislation drafted by Government. Workers need to have a guarantee around flexibility. Proper legislation will provide this certainty. Workers must also be support through a clear right to appeal route via the workplace or, failing that, the Workplace Relations Commission.

“I still have some concerns around what is being reported this morning, with reports suggesting that a right to work flexibly is still being treated as a reward for good behaviour on request following 12 weeks’ service.

“This is simply nonsensical and so far behind where the world of work actually is. The right to flexibility must be embedded in employees contracts from the start. We know that in the employment market, more and more people are choosing their next career move based on the potential for flexibility – workers are demanding this degree of certainty and the legislation must support them in this.

“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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