Right to request remote working represents a right to refuse

08 March 2024
  • Code of practice on remote and flexible working arrangements is major missed opportunity.

Labour workers’ rights spokesperson Marie Sherlock said the publication of the Code of Practice on the Right to Request Flexible Work and Remote working is a sad day for the many workers looking for flexible and remote working arrangements.

Senator Sherlock said:

“This Government has been utterly captured by the big business lobby group when it comes to flexible and remote work. We saw during the pandemic how, overnight, flexible work transformed the world of work for businesses and workers alike.

“The Code of Practice published by the WRC today effectively gives businesses the right to refuse requests of flexibility.

“The fact that the WRC can only adjudicate on the process that led to a decision on flexible work is outrageous. The WRC have effectively been left toothless to deal with the decision to refuse requests around remote and flexible work.

“Looking at the process rather than the practicalities of flexible work is a capitulation to employers.

“Sadly the much trumpeted Work Life Balance Act does not the deliver the flexibilities that we know many workers are seeking.

“It took a very narrow view of flexible work, restricting it to those in caring roles of family members only and ignoring the huge demand for flexible work for those tied to a life of long commutes or who need flexible work arrangements to re-enter the labour force.

“For the many forced to locate away from their place of work because of the cost of renting or house purchase will live with uncertainty of knowing their employers can pull the plug on remote working arrangements at any time on spurious grounds with no real right of appeal to the WRC.

“We had a massive opportunity to be global leaders and promote flexible working in this country. Instead this Government has opted to effectively try and put the genie back in the bottle on flexible work. No doubt the growing concerns about the commercial property market and the very high levels of official vacancy space in Dublin had a bearing on the Government’s bill enacted last year, with workers suffering the consequences.

“Ultimately, strong collective bargaining rights are what will give power to workers to seek these arrangements.

“Flexible work is not only good for workers’ well-being, productivity and work-life balance, but also for the environment, the economy and the society. It reduces commuting, congestion, emissions, costs and inequalities. It also enables workers to choose where they live and work, and to access opportunities that might otherwise be out of reach.

“We should be helping and supporting people who want to work. That’s why Labour wanted every one who can work remotely to have a right to do so. This is the wrong move from this Government.”

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