Consultation on remote working welcome, but it is not a silver bullet for all
9 July 2020
Seanad Whip and Spokesperson on Employment Affairs, Media, Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht
Labour Spokesperson on Employment Affairs, Senator Marie Sherlock has welcomed the public consultation process on remote working announced by the Government.
Sherlock said that while the consultation is welcome, remote working is not a solution that will work for everyone.
Senator Sherlock said:
“It is undoubtably true that remote working has saved thousands of jobs by allowing sectors of the economy to remain open during the Covid-19 crisis. However, we must not allow ourselves be led into thinking it is a silver bullet, but a rather useful measure in allowing workers greater flexibility.
“Remote working can surely contribute to a better work-life balance, by allowing workers to balance childcare and family commitments with their work obligations. However, it is hugely problematic for those who don’t have the appropriate space in their homes and it can be a nightmare for those renting a house with others.
“Furthermore, the move towards greater levels of remote working in the Irish labour market could have serious consequences for young workers and those hoping to enter the labour force. We do not want a situation where certain workers are disadvantaged because they are being forced to work from home. A lack of appropriate space and equipment, particularly for workers from lower income backgrounds, along with the lack of regular mentoring by more experienced staff, will impose serious drawbacks on the careers of young workers.
“The introduction of new guidance for remote working should include examining how our current laws can be changed to benefit workers, and not be framed purely in terms of increased productivity. The legislation governing flexible working arrangements needs to be reviewed in order to rebalance the relationship between the employer and the employee. Issues such as the right to disconnect must feature in any legislative response, as well as ensuring that employers bear the responsibility and cost to provide equipment if necessary. This must not be about shifting the cost of maintaining an office from an employer to the employee.
“Remote working in Ireland’s world of work can be the great enabler. If done right, it has a range of holistic benefits in terms of work-life balance, childcare and reduced commuting time, and can be a part of an improved situation for workers. But it must not be pushed through at any cost.
Senator Sherlock continued:
“This consultation on remote working is important not only in terms of the reopening of the economy post-Covid, but also in terms of examining the challenges posed by the future of work in the years ahead”.