Labour demand workers’ right to flexible work – not a right for employers to refuse

07 April 2023
  • Must roll out flexible work to all now, after review of Bill in three years.
  • Restrictive nature of Bill is against the principle of flexibility for all.

Noting the signing of the Work Life Balance Bill into law by President Higgins, Labour workers’ rights spokesperson Marie Sherlock said all workers must have a right to flexible work.

Senator Sherlock said:

“Labour has consistently pushed Government to be on the side of workers and progress a modern bill that takes account of the realities of the workplace of today. It is disappointing that Government were not brave enough to stare down employer lobby groups and build on the pandemic gains in work by enshrining a legal right to flexibility into law for all workers.

“Workers need certainty that they have a right to flexibility, not a right for employers to refuse their request for same. As shown during the pandemic, where there is certainty on these arrangements, more and more people previously locked out of the labour market can be encouraged back in.

“While we acknowledge that the Bill will be reviewed in three years’ time, we should have seen the full role out of flexible work to all now. I can’t understand why Government are trying to turn back the clock on innovations in the workplace that suit workers, businesses, the economy and local communities.

“The Bill is restrictive in its very nature. There are certain elements which only apply to a very specific set of family relatives, while excluding other situations where persons could be in a caring role.

“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.

“Flexible work brings enormous benefits for economies, businesses and workers, including greater productivity and improved work-life balance. It’s a win-win for everyone and a particular boon for creating more diverse workplaces. Labour proposed legislation back in February in tandem with advocacy groups representing women, people with disability, lone parents and many others to support this.

“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. Government must be brave and do the right thing for workers, business and the economy by providing a legal right to flexible work.”

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