New developments in remote and flexible working
The Work Life Balance and Miscellaneous Provisions Bill 2022 continues to progress through the legislative process. A detailed briefing of an earlier draft of the Bill is available here. Significant amendments to the Bill were introduced in December 2022 and a summary of the key amendments is set out below:
- The Right to Request Remote Working Bill (which we previously analysed here) has been scrapped. Provisions on the right to request remote working are now contained in the Bill. Key features of the right are:
- A remote working arrangement cannot start until the employee has 6 months’ continuous service.
- An employer has 4 weeks (which can be extended to up to 8 weeks) to consider and either approve or deny a request.
- The 13 grounds for refusing a request to work remotely have been scrapped. There is a simplified obligation for employers to consider both parties’ needs and the provisions of an anticipated Code of Practice (to be drafted by the Workplace Relations Commission) when responding to a request, and to provide grounds for refusal.
- While remote working arrangements can be requested by any employee (provided the request is made in the format set out in the Bill), flexible working arrangements may only be requested by those with certain caring responsibilities. The Government has signalled it will review this incongruity two years after the legislation has passed.
- Employers can no longer postpone the start date of flexible working arrangements.
- Remote or flexible working arrangements can be terminated by an employer, provided the employer follows the termination process set out in the Bill. The termination process is similar in both cases: employers must provide reasons for terminating the arrangement which align to those set out in the Bill, give employees an opportunity to respond to the proposal, and consider that response before making a decision.
- The grounds for bringing WRC claims in relation to requests for flexible working and remote working have been broadened to include claims relating to the termination of such arrangements. However, the Bill expressly states that, for claims concerning both flexible and remote working arrangements, the WRC cannot consider the “merits” of the decisions made by the employer, including the reasons for reaching their decision. This is a significant limitation on the WRC’s powers to consider complaints.
- New provisions have been inserted providing for paid domestic violence leave of up to 5 days’ paid leave in any 12 month period. Pay is proposed to be in line with the rate of pay for statutory sick pay (70% of an employee’s wages up to a cap of €110 per day).
We will publish further updates as the Bill progresses through the legislative process. The Committee Stage in the Seanad has been ordered for 20 December and it is expected that the Bill will be passed into law in early 2023.