Greater compensation needed in remote work appeals, unions tell TDs

Workers are expected to get bigger payouts in successful appeals under new remote working laws, politicians have been told.

New legislation due to come into effect later this year will give workers the legal right to request remote work.

If their employer refuses their request, they can appeal to the Professional Relations Commission.

A submission from the Irish Congress of Trades Unions (Ictu) to the Oireachtas Committee reviewing the Bill ahead of an appearance this week calls for major amendments to the right of appeal in the new bill.

The submission from Ictu and Fórsa to the Joint Enterprise Committee notes that the “compensatory relief” an employee is entitled to will not exceed four weeks’ pay.

He says this limit is “totally inadequate and irrelevant” with a limit of 104 weeks pay available to workers under current employment law.

Remote working will be a big deal in the coming weeks as a staggered return to offices intensifies after restrictions are lifted.

It is estimated that one in four employees worked from home during the first lockdown, and many employers have promised hybrid arrangements.

Before the pandemic, only one in 20 workers regularly worked remotely, according to the submission.

Laura Bambrick, head of social policy at the ICTU, said affiliated unions had indicated some employers were unwilling to discuss remote working until they saw the new legislation.

“There is a real sense of urgency that we need to strengthen and enact it,” she said.

“Legislation proposing to introduce a reduced cap on pay that does not exist in other legislation is fueling the fact that it is in favor of employers.

“Overall, the right to request a remote work bill favors employers over workers, from when you have to work for an employer to when they have to go back on a request. If the issues regarding the reasons for denying a request and the grounds for appeal are not resolved, it will not be worth the paper it is written on.

The unions’ ‘Make Remote Work’ submission urges a major change to the bill so that an appeal can be made on the grounds that the
the employer’s refusal was unreasonable.

“As currently drafted, the bill only allows a complaint to the Workplace Relations Board for technical reasons, such as late decision,” it says. “This does not allow an employee to appeal the reason for the denial of the request.

“This significantly undermines the usefulness and effectiveness of the proposed legislation.”

An employee can file a complaint if the employer has not rendered a decision within 12 weeks.

They can also lodge a complaint if the employer does not provide the reasons for refusal or does not accept after 30 days a request from a worker who withdraws a previous request.

The unions’ submission says appeals should be allowed for employees who are victims of requesting, appealing or performing remote work.

He says a long list of grounds employers can refuse in the first draft of the proposed legislation is far too long.

“If enacted in its current form, the Right to Request Remote Work Bill would not provide strong legislation that ensures due process and balances the needs of employer and employees,” it says. -he.

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