Failure to commence right to remote work legislation facilitates business to roll back the clock on work

19 October 2023
  • Push for return to office apparent in new data

Labour workers’ rights spokesperson Marie Sherlock has called out the Government for dragging its heels on remote work legislation and for facilitating business to roll back the clock on flexible and remote working.

She was responding to research published by Dublin Chamber showing that over half of workers now spend between two to three days in the office each week, a 7% increase from the end of last year.

Senator Sherlock said:

“The failure of Government to embrace the new reality of the world of work has been laid bare in this research. Labour proposed legislation in February 2022 that would have secured the legal right for workers to flexible and remote working from the moment their employment started.

“Instead the Government adopted a much more narrow and distrustful approach with right to request legislation that they have failed to commence six months after it passed through the Oireachtas.

“As the Dublin Chamber research shows, now only a third of companies offer complete flexibility to their staff, down from almost half (45%) at the end of 2022.

“This data points to an increased push to get people back into the office.

“This is happening at a time that there is no legal framework in place for workers to request remote or flexible work from their employer.

“Raising this in the Seanad last week, I highlighted the unacceptable delays in commencing the legislation. The practical reality for workers is that they still have no framework to negotiate remote or flexible work and no right to bring the refusal of a request to the WRC for mediation.

“This rise in office based working in Dublin takes place at a time where we are seeing incredible levels of vacancy in the commercial office space sector with reports that Lisney are forecasting office vacancy rates of 17% by end of 2023.

“With some 240,000 sq. m of office developments under construction or new to the market this year to bring the total size of the Dublin office market to close on 22million sq. m of office space, there are now real concerns about the impact of overcapacity of office space on workers.

“For firms locked into expensive leases, their focus will inevitably be on pushing workers back into the office and for Government, they will wish to avoid any meltdown in commercial property sector. Unfortunately, workers could get caught up as pawns in all of this.

“It’s unbelievable that we are three years on from the pandemic with no legislation or protections in place. The reality is that remote and flexible work arrangements offer enormous potential to the many locked out of full time work in this country; working mothers, , lone parents and persons with a disability.

“Remote and flexible work arrangements are also a game changer for those who have long commutes to work. More and more people are buying homes outside of our cities due to the lack of affordable homes.”

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