Labour representative for Laois, Eoin Barry, is urging support for The Labour Party’s Working from Home (Covid-19) Bill 2020 due to be debated in the Dáil on Wednesday.
This Bill, according to the Crettyard native, will give workers a right to switch off and would require employers to provide a suitable home workstation and flat rate payment to cover the costs now shouldered by workers.
Mr Barry, who ran in the 2019 Local Election, said: “The pandemic has changed the ways thousands of people work, and has seen a huge shift to working from home, really blurring the lines between paid work, and time off.
“Workers must be adequately provided for when working from home with the right equipment, compensated for their home office costs, and given the right to switch off.
“This Bill provides a legal right to ‘disconnect’ from out of hours communications. This will stop the blurring of lines between work and home caused by Covid-19.
“Our laws governing work are out of date, and the Covid-19 pandemic has shown this. Workers shouldn’t be shouldering the many costs of working from home.
“We’re one of the only EU countries without any modern protection in our employment law for remote working, while there are four EU countries now with the specific right to switch off (France, Spain, Italy and Belgium).
“The right to ‘disconnect’ will mean employers have to clearly set out in writing their policy on out of hours communications, and this would provide workers with access to the protections provided under the Organisation of Working Time Act.
“The Bill sets out that an employee is entitled not to engage with electronic communications outside of their normal hours of work but, if they choose to do so, this would count as working time and be subject to the Act.
“Alongside the move to more flexible working, there must in parallel be protections for workers and that’s why we want this put in place now.”
According to Mr Barry, the dramatic shift in the numbers of people who are now working from home due to Covid-19, necessitates immediate changes.
He said: “We also need to put adequate provision in place for those working from home.
“At the start of this year about 9% or just over 200,000 people were working from home but at the height of the pandemic this rose to nearly 700,000 people.
“Many employers adequately provide for workers at home, but too many don’t, and the situation has changed so rapidly that our laws, protections, and compensation haven’t caught up yet with the reality of pandemic work patterns.
“The Labour Bill will require employers to provide a workstation, chair and IT equipment and then mandates employers to pay a flat rate payment.
“At present payments in respect of working from home are at the discretion of the employer and we can’t allow that to continue.
“As a local Rep, I know well the challenges faced by people working from home in Laois. I hope local Government TD’s will support this Bill.
“Workers need to be adequately protected when working from home with decent working conditions and as a result they should not be forced to engage with out of hours communications.”