Tip of the Week- Right to Request Flexible and Remote Work

The Government has implemented the new right to request remote work for all employees. Parents and carers are also entitled to request flexible working. The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) has officially approved and published the anticipated Code of Practice for employers. The right to request flexible and remote working is included in the Work Life Balance and Miscellaneous Provisions Act 2023, which introduced several family friendly rights such as increasing breastfeeding breaks from six months to two years, providing employees who are parents or carers with five days of unpaid leave for medical needs, and introducing paid domestic violence leave. However, not all sections of the Work Life Balance and Miscellaneous Provisions Act 2023 had come into effect, including those providing employees with the right to request remote and flexible working, which has been eagerly anticipated.

The newly published Code of Practice for Employers and Employees aims to provide clear guidance to both employers and employees on the process of requesting and managing flexible and remote working arrangements. It provides clarity on the procedures related to requests for flexible and remote working as established by the Work Life Balance and Miscellaneous Provisions Act 2023, and emphasizes fairness, transparency, and effective communication. The Code serves several specific purposes, including outlining the procedures involved in making and managing requests for both flexible and remote working, supporting employers in making objective, fair, and reasonable decisions when considering requests for flexible or remote working, offering practical guidance on best practices to employers, employees, and their representatives to ensure compliance with the legislation, assisting in the development of workplace policies and procedures for handling requests for flexible and remote working, providing guidance for resolving disputes related to requests for flexible or remote working, and offering information to the public regarding the relevant legislative provisions in relation to flexible and remote working.

Both employers and employees are required to adhere to the Code of Practice when evaluating applications for remote working arrangements. Employers must also consider the Code when terminating a flexible working arrangement or remote working arrangement. The Code will be admissible in evidence in proceedings before a court, the Labour Court, or the WRC. Employees may bring a complaint to the WRC in the event that an employer fails to fulfill their obligations under the Act. If a complaint is brought to the WRC concerning the right to request remote or flexible working, the Code specifies that the WRC can only assess the process that led to the employer’s decision.

Employers are advised to review the Code of Practice for Employers and Employees to ensure a clear understanding of their obligations under the Code. Employers should also examine all relevant policies to ensure adherence to the guidance set out in the Code. The Code is intended to be read in conjunction with existing employment and equality law obligations.

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