Tuesday, 23 July 2019

Questions (991)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

991. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation if her Department and agencies under her remit will take a leading role in terms of promoting a better work-life balance for employees; the way in which remote working can assist with this objective; if consideration will be given to introducing guidelines regarding the right to disconnect as has happened in France; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32428/19]

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Written answers (Question to Business)

My Department and I understand the importance of promoting a good work-life balance for employees. This is addressed under Pillar 4 of our Future Jobs Ireland strategy. Pillar 4 is focussed on increasing participation in the labour force as this will lead to the more equitable, balanced and sustainable development of Ireland’s workforce.

Pillar 4 of Future Jobs Ireland outlines a number of key ambitions and deliverables to help to increase participation in the labour force. A number of these ambitions are centred on flexible working solutions which offer benefits for employers, employees and wider society in general. Flexible working encompasses a wide range of practices including part-time, compressed hours, job sharing, home-working and remote working. Such solutions allow for tangible benefits for employees including improving their work life balance. It also provides solutions for those who would otherwise take unpaid parental leave but cannot afford to do so.

A key deliverable under Pillar 4 is the completion of research on remote working. My Department is currently leading on this research which will focus on understanding the prevalence and types of remote working arrangements within the Irish workforce and the attitudes towards such arrangements. The research will also identify the influencing factors for both employers and employees partaking in remote working.

To guide this work, an Interdepartmental Steering Group has been formed with representatives from my Department, the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Department of Rural and Community Development,  Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Department of Justice and Equality and Department of An Taoiseach.  The research will include desk research, identification of key data sources and one-on-one consultation with key stakeholders. To gain further insights my Department held a Remote Working Consultation Forum on July 18th and the insights arising from this Forum will be included in a final report to be completed in Q4 of this year which will outline the relevant policy implications of remote working for Ireland.

As part of their work programme, I will ask the Interdepartmental Steering Group to examine the French approach referenced by the Deputy. Given the increasing digitalisation of the workforce, I believe it is important from a work-life balance perspective that there are clearly defined guidelines regarding workers rights to switch off after office hours.