The New Code of Practice on Remote Working and Flexible Working

What it Means for Employers

With recent research in Ireland showing that 92% of Irish employees have a strong preference for continuing in a hybrid or remote work model, the new Code of Practice on Remote Working and Flexible Working introduced in March is timely.

The new Code of Practice on Remote Working and Flexible Working provides employees with details of their right to request remote working and/or flexible working arrangement for caring purposes and how to do so, and the response times and details as to how the employer should deal with and evaluate such requests, their health and safety obligations and what a written agreement would contain should the request be accepted or an alternative arrangement be proposed by the employer and accepted by the employee.

Making a Request

An employee may make a request in writing to the employer for remote working and must do so at least eight weeks before it’s proposed to commence. The employee is required to give reasons for making the request.  They are also obliged to confirm they will abide by their responsibilities under health and safety legislation and to facilitate their employer in complying with the legislation.

The employer then has four weeks (or twelve weeks if the validity of the request needs to be assessed further) to approve or refuse the request.  

The employer and employee are required to consider an alternative arrangement if the employer cannot approve the request for remote working. 

Therefore, if an employee needs to work remotely for reasons relating to childcare for instance, but the request is refused by the employer, that employee may propose as an alternative arrangement one or more of the other types of flexible working arrangements such as flexitime or compressed working hours.  

Considering a Request

When considering a request, the employer is required to have regard for their own need, the employee’s needs, and the relevant issues set out in the Code of Practice, such as if there are any health and safety issues could arise if part of the role is performed remotely.  

Health and Safety

Employers need to undertake a risk assessment to identify the hazards in the place where the employee proposes to work remotely.

Service Threshold

Employees may make a request to work remotely from the day they commence employment, but the remote working arrangement may not begin until the employee has accrued at least six months service.  

Written Agreement 

The employer should prepare a written agreement. It should cover the term of the arrangement, review periods, health and safety matters, the duties the employee is expected to perform, etc.

Termination 

The employer may bring the remote working or flexible working agreement to an end for a variety of reasons. 

Appeal   

Employees may appeal the termination, and in that case, like all other appeals processes, the person dealing with the appeal should ideally not have been involved up to that date if at all possible, which may be difficult in smaller employers.