The Tanaiste has called on employers to make remote working a much bigger part of life after Covid-19.
Leo Varadkar said the Government does not want to see working “drift” back to the way it was before the pandemic, and wants future arrangements to be based on “personal choice”.
He made the comments as he launched the #MakingRemoteWork campaign at Government Buildings in Dublin on Monday.
See how you can be #MakingRemoteWork with our checklist. Examine your Policies for Remote Working and consider:— Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment (@DeptEnterprise) June 25, 2021
❓a policy for requests
🧑💻 updating other policies to factor in blended options
✅including a review date if remote working is offered on a temporary basis
The campaign aims to raise awareness of the advice and information available from Government to help workers and employers facilitate more remote and blended working.
Launched our #MakingRemoteWork campaign today with John McAvoy from @GrowRemoteIrl. Now is the time for employers to speak to staff about what works best for them and the company. We have a unique opportunity to change the way we work for the better. Lets not waste it. pic.twitter.com/qUJoPziNVW— Leo Varadkar (@LeoVaradkar) June 28, 2021
“It’s the Government saying to employers, employees that now’s a good time to begin the conversation about what the return to work, the return to the modern workplace, is going to look like after the pandemic,” Mr Varadkar said.
“Huge numbers of people have been working from home for many months now.
“We know what can now be achieved in terms of productivity, how practical it is, and how successful it’s been.
“But at the moment it’s not a choice, people are being told that they have to work from home if at all possible – that is going to change the next couple of months.
“It is going to become a choice, and people won’t have to work from home.
“They’ll be able to return to the workplace, but we don’t want things to drift back to the way they were.
“We don’t want to go back to the old normal.
“We want a new normal.
“We want that to be based on personal choice.”
The Enterprise Minister said he wants employers to consider how they can make remote working a more permanent feature of life post-Covid, whether they means continuing to work from home or a blended model where people work from the office and from home, or from remote working hubs.
“We have remote work checklist which is of assistance to employers and employees and also we’ve got guidance on the new world of blended working and remote work. We’re very keen that people should have that conversation now,” Mr Varadkar added.
The #MakingRemoteWork campaign builds on the department’s National Remote Work Strategy, which was published earlier this year.
New laws giving are being drawn up to give employees the legal right to request remote working.
If passed it would mean employers would have to either agree to the request or explain why they are not granting the request.
An employee would be able to challenge the reasoning at the Workplace Relations Commission.
The Government has also put in place a new code of practice on the right to disconnect from work that covers phones and emails.
It has also committed to making home and remote working the norm for 20% of public sector employees.
Under the present Covid-19 restrictions the current advice is for employees to work from home unless it is necessary to go into their workplace but Mr Varadkar said that would change in the next couple of months.
“I am confident that because of the vaccination programme that we’ll be able to see that return to the office happen,” he said.
“But’s going to happen on a phased basis.
“It is not going to be on one day in August or one day in September.
“It’s going to be done on a phased basis following the Government’s plan, initially with meetings, induction and training.
“And then a staggered return to the office.”