I thank Deputy Deering for raising this matter. As Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, I understand the growing importance of promoting a good work-life balance for employees as new ways of working emerge. This is addressed under pillar 4 of our Future Jobs Ireland strategy. Pillar 4 is focused on increasing participation in the labour force as this will lead to the more equitable, balanced and sustainable development of Ireland’s economy.
Ambition 4.2 under pillar 4 aims to foster participation through flexible working solutions. This includes several deliverables aimed at promoting flexible working. I refer, for example, to the production of guidelines for employers on flexible and family-friendly working options. 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 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 this ambition is the completion of research on remote working. My Department is leading on this research, which will focus on understanding the prevalence and the 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 final report will also include an international policy review which will consider related policy developments abroad, such as the right to disconnect. This will help to inform future policy on remote work. The final report will be published shortly.
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.
As the Deputy will be aware, the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997, which covers such matters, falls under the policy remit of the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection. I have, therefore, discussed this matter with my colleague, the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Deputy Regina Doherty, in the context of developing Future Jobs 2020.