Tuesday, 17 December 2019

Questions (297)

Robert Troy


297. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the details of her decision to set up an interdepartmental group to develop clear guidelines for employees and employers on remote working; if she reviewed potential legislative changes; and if so, the details of same. [52570/19]

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Written answers (Question to Business)

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 reflected in Pillar 4 of Future Jobs Ireland, which is focussed on increasing participation in the labour force.

A deliverable under this Pillar is the completion of research on remote working, which was published by my Department on 6th December 2019. The objective of this research was to understand the prevalence and types of remote working arrangements within the Irish workforce, the attitudes towards such arrangements and the influencing factors for both employers and employees when considering remote work.

The Remote Work in Ireland report includes the outcomes from desk research, quantitative research and engagement with key stakeholders, including employer representative bodies and remote working interest groups. The report also includes an international policy review which considers relevant policies abroad.

One of the key implications for remote working in Ireland identified in this report is the need for guidance. Multiple stakeholder groups identified the absence of official guidelines for employers, employees and human resource professionals on the topic of remote work. As a result, many are unclear on how to manage the various aspects of what remote work entails. The main areas of importance highlighted in the research are:

- Equality – Fair and objective grounds for responding to a remote working request.

- Health and Safety – Topics of work-related accidents, balancing risk assessments with an employees’ privacy and clear procedures regarding bullying and workplace harassment when an employee is working from a hub or co-working space.

- Employment Conditions – Increased clarity and support in balancing employees’ right to privacy and the practical elements of performance measurement and monitoring working hours.

- Data Protection – Balancing data security and cybersecurity when engaging in remote work, particularly given GDPR and the Data Protection Act 2018, which offers enhanced privacy protection rights to individuals in relation to the processing of their personal data.

- Training – Training for employees working remotely and for managers in managing distributed teams.

To build on the areas of importance outlined above, Future Jobs Ireland 2020 will commit to the establishment of an Interdepartmental Group comprising relevant departments and agencies to align approach and develop clear guidance for employers and workers on key aspects of remote work. This Group will be formed and commence its work in the new year.