Willy-nilly rejection of remote working requests will see flood of tribunal cases

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Leading HR advisor says employers are anticipating a flood of employment law cases resulting from ‘willy-nilly’ rejection of remote working requests by employers.

Martina McAuley, Director at HR Team, said employers who are not adequately prepared to deal with remote working requests – even post Covid-19 – run the risk of serious financial penalties.

Unfair Dismissal Following The Refusal Of A Remote Working Request

Ms McAuley made the comments after the Workplace Relations Commission ordered an employer to compensate a worker for unfair dismissal following the refusal of a request for remote working.

Ms McAuley said: “Case law now exists which shows that a willy-nilly or blanket approach to dealing with remote working requests in Ireland exposes employers to high risk.

“And with legislation due later this year to make remote working a permanent option for Irish employees, employers are best advised to be properly prepared to address such requests.

Remote working requests

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National Remote Work Strategy

“On publishing Ireland’s first National Remote Work Strategy recently, the Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said where employees have the right to request remote working, the onus is on the employer to either say yes or explain why not, giving valid reasons. That means employers need to get their policy on remote working in order right now to ensure they are protected as employees seek more permanent remote working arrangements going forward.

How To Compliantly Accommodate Remote Work Requests

“As a first step, it’s important that each role is assessed on its merits for home or remote working – a haphazard ‘one rule fits all’ approach will not work. The WRC ruling in this case is early evidence of this and there will be many more similar cases coming down the line,” she said.

Ms McAuley outlined steps that employers can take to avoid risk when handling remote working requests.

She said: “We are advising employers to act urgently to ensure they can react appropriately and compliantly to remote working requests. Steps to take in dealing with remote working requests from employees include:

  1. Ensure your organisation has a robust remote working policy in place.
  2. Communicate the policy clearly to all employees to ensure it is fully understood.
  3. Assess each job role on its merits for home or remote working – avoid a blanket approach to employee requests from across the organisation.
  4. Consider alternatives if a job role cannot be carried out in a fully remote capacity, such as whether the job role can be partially performed remotely.
  5. Ensure there is valid business rationale on why particular job roles cannot be performed from home or remotely. This should be clearly explained to the employee(s) with valid reasons given for the position taken by the employer.

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