Friday, 6 September 2019

Questions (759)

Robert Troy


759. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the policy with respect to remote working; the remote working office hubs that are under the remit of her Department or a State agency under her remit that has such office hubs by county; and if all empty office space and State lands under the jurisdiction of State agencies under the remit of her Department that could facilitate remote office working for local starts-ups, SMEs and entrepreneurs have been analysed. [36853/19]

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Written answers (Question to Business)

DBEI is currently leading on a new piece of research on remote working under Future Jobs Ireland 2019. To deliver on ambition 4.2(i) of this strategy the research will examine the prevalence and types of remote working arrangements within the Irish workforce, and the attitudes towards such working arrangements, as well as the factors which inhibit employers and employees from partaking in these arrangements.

To guide this work, an Interdepartmental Steering Group has been formed with representatives from the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation, the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment, the Department of Rural and Community Development, the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection, the Department of Justice and Equality, and the Department of An Taoiseach. The research will include desk research, identification of key data sources and one-on-one consultation with key stakeholders. To further inform this research a Remote Working Consultation Forum was held on July 18th, 2019 in Cavan Digital Hub.

The end result of this project will be a cohesive research paper on the prevalence of remote work in Ireland that fulfils the deliverable as stated above. This will be completed in Q4 2019 and will be published shortly thereafter. When completed, this work will be considered in the context of the Department’s own remote working arrangements.

My own Department including its Offices has 5 staff engaged in formal remote working arrangements at work patterns of between 1 and 4 days per week. In addition, my Department’s ICT Unit provides remote working ICT facilities to any staff whose role requires them to work away from their office on a regular basis. Currently, 230 staff in the Department and its Offices are assigned laptops or tablets for use whenever they require to work away from the office. In addition, a pool of loan laptops or tablets is available to other staff to work remotely where business needs allow.

My Department's Agencies' remote working arrangements are outlined below.

Enterprise Ireland

Enterprise Ireland has an e-working policy that supports and encourages remote working (e-working) among its employees. Applications are invited from staff once a year and arrangements are put in place to facilitate e-working, typically one day per week for a 12 month period.

Enterprise Ireland supports companies throughout the country to start, scale and succeed in international markets. As part of this, Enterprise Ireland has supported the establishment of enterprise centres that can support remote working throughout the country. Competitive funding to support this has been awarded under the following schemes:

Community Enterprise Centres: Enterprise Ireland has co-funded, with local enterprise development groups, 157 Community Enterprise Centres across the country totaling €64 million. There is now a Community Enterprise Centre located in every county. The agency has also provided €2m, via competitive competition, to support the role of a 46 Business Development Function/Manager in Community Enterprise Centres. These centers collectively employ approximately 6,000 people across 1,200 companies and are key hubs of enterprise activity in many areas. Many of this centres provide remote working facilities.

Regional Enterprise Development Fund: Enterprise Ireland has approved €60 million to 42 projects throughout the country to support enterprise. Of this, approximately 20 projects will provide remote working facilities.

Enterprise Ireland’s regional plan ‘Powering the Regions’ is seeking to support the growth of remote working throughout the country. As part of this, Enterprise Ireland will launch a new work smart challenge to support 10,000 co-working and incubation spaces in regional locations throughout the country.

The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC)

The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) has no formal policy with respect to remote working for employees. The CCPC do not have remote working office hubs or empty office space/land that could facilitate remote office working for local starts-ups, SMEs and entrepreneurs.

Health and Safety Authority (HSA)

The HSA has in place a Voluntary Remote Access (VRA) scheme which allows, on an agreed basis, a HSA staff member to carry out administrative functions from their home or other location using their HSA issued laptop. Administrative staff can work a maximum of 2 days/20% of the week out of the office if approved by their line manager. The HSA’s field inspectors spend up to 90% of their time out of the office remote working or inspecting workplaces. Most of their administrative and data entry work is carried out from home with attendance in the office usually only required once a week. The HSA does not have any office space that could be used to facilitate remote office working for local start-ups, SMEs and entrepreneurs.

Irish Auditing and Accounting Supervisory Authority (IAASA)

All IAASA staff are provided with laptop devices which can facilitate remote working. Audit Inspection staff spend the majority of their time in PIE audit firms. All other staff are primarily office-based.  IAASA allows flexibility to work remotely but does not require remote working. IAASA does not own any property.  It currently sub-lets its premises from OPW.  Furthermore it does not control any vacant buildings or lands.

IDA Ireland

IDA Ireland’s formal home working policy came into effect from 1st September 2019 to allow staff to apply to work from home, up to one day per week, subject to business requirements and management approval, and the approval of the Staff Resources Committee. Each application is considered on a case by case basis and reviewed on an ongoing basis vis a vis business delivery.  Each application is approved for a period of one year, following which the staff member must re-apply for a further year. At this point in time, and given the early date in September, IDA Ireland’s HR Department has not received any formal applications for home working but expects to do so in the coming weeks, prior to their consideration at the next meeting of the Staff Resources Committee at the end of the month.

National Standards Authority of Ireland

In NSAI e-working is an approved arrangement by which employees work part of the week at home using approved internet and telecoms. E-working is limited to a maximum of 2 days per week and must be combined with core office-based hours/days each week. The number of people in NSAI currently availing of a formal e-working arrangement is 22. NSAI do not have a space/hub for working for use by local starts-ups, SMEs and entrepreneurs.

Personal injuries Assessment Board

PIAB do not offer remote working to their staff. PIAB  is not a dedicated office hub for remote workers and PIAB would not be in a position to facilitate a space/hub for working for local starts-ups, SMEs and entrepreneurs.

Science Foundation Ireland (SFI)

SFI currently offers remote working where, subject to certain conditions, employees may work from home for up to 2 days per month. 9 employees are currently availing of the working from home option. SFI does not have remote working hubs in Ireland. All SFI staff in Ireland are based at the organisation Headquarters at Wilton Park House. SFI has one international officer based at IDA offices in Mountain View California. SFI has no vacant office premises and have no state lands under their jurisdiction.