I propose to take Questions Nos. 57, 65, 86 and 93 together.
As Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, I understand the opportunities presented by the increased adoption of flexible working solutions in the workplace. This is addressed under Pillar 4 of the Government’s 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 can 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 deliverable under this Pillar is the completion of research on remote working. My Department is currently leading on this research which focusses on understanding the prevalence and types of remote working arrangements within the Irish workforce and the attitudes towards such arrangements. The research will identify the influencing factors for both employers and employees partaking in remote working. The research will also include an international policy review which will consider related policies abroad in order to understand the impacts of this on remote working.
To assist this work, an Interdepartmental Steering Group has been formed with representatives from my Department, 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. This Group is providing guidance and feedback to the members of my Department who are leading on this report.
To date, the research has included desk research, quantitative research and important engagement with key stakeholders, including employer representative bodies and remote working interest groups. As part of the consultation process, my Department held a Remote Working Consultation Forum on July 18th of this year in Cavan Digital Hub. This was attended by Government Departments, State Agencies, enterprises, and the remote working community. This insights arising from this event will be included in the final report.
Further to this, my Department launched a national Remote Working Employee Survey in October to capture the prevalence and types of remote work that employees are engaging in across regions and sectors. The results of the analysis of the survey will provide data on the range of influencing factors for employees and employers.
The insights arising from the various strands of research will be included in a cohesive final report which will outline the key implications for remote working in Ireland. Based on the report’s findings, which will be published soon, consideration will be given as to the appropriate next steps to be undertaken by Government on this matter. The Department of Justice and Equality will also be launching a consultation on work/life balance shortly which will identify further areas of consideration for flexible working.