The Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Leo Varadkar T.D. today published details of a new law which will give employees the right to request remote working, as part of his plans to make better terms and conditions for workers a legacy of the pandemic.
The Right to Request Remote Working Bill 2021 will, for the first time, provide a legal framework around which requesting, approving or refusing a request for remote work can be based.
All workplaces must have a written statement which sets out the company’s Remote Working Policy, specifying the manner in which remote working requests are managed and the conditions which will apply to remote working generally within the organisation.
Where the employer has diligently completed the assessment process and any appeal has been heard, the employee will have to wait a period of 12 months to submit another request, provided they are in the same role. If an employee moves to a new role within the company, they may submit a fresh request.
The new law provides for a time-limit for an employer to return a decision in relation to a request from an employee. The employer can set out their own specific time limit but it must not be more than 12 weeks.
An employee will be eligible to submit a request once they have worked for their employer for a period of six months. However, an employer is free to offer remote work from day one if desired.
There will be a right of appeal to the Workplace Relations Commission where an employer has failed to respond to a request or to provide any reasonable grounds for refusal of a request for remote working and protections for employees from penalisation for having exercised their entitlement to request remote working.
The Tánaiste said:
“We have a real opportunity now to change the norm and learn what we can from the pandemic. This new right is in addition to the right to disconnect, our investment in remote working hubs across the country and our changes to the treatment of home working costs through Budget 2022.”
The General Scheme has been developed following consultation with employer groups, employee representative groups and the public. The General Scheme and the Regulatory Impact Assessment are available at Right to Request Remote Work Bill 2021
As set out in the legislation, an employer may, having given the application due consideration, decline a request for remote working stating the reasonable business grounds for so doing which may include but are not limited to — The nature of the work not allowing for the work to be done remotely Cannot reorganise work among existing staff Potential negative impact on quality Potential negative impact on performance Planned structural changes Burden of additional costs, taking into account the financial and other costs entailed and the scale and financial resources of the employer’s business Concerns re the protection of business confidentiality or intellectual property Concerns re the suitability of the proposed workspace on health and safety grounds Concerns re the suitability of the proposed workspace on data protection grounds Concerns re the internet connectivity of the proposed remote working location Inordinate distance between the proposed remote location and on-site location if the proposed remote working arrangement conflicts with the provisions of an applicable collective agreement Ongoing or recently concluded formal disciplinary processes.
ISME has renewed calls for the integration of the taxation and social welfare system in a submission to the Commission on Taxation and Welfare. In its submission, ISME has highlighted how the taxation and social welfare system are inherently interlined for the taxpaying-citizen, but has noted that the pace of reform in Ireland is too slow.
Neil McDonnell, CEO of ISME said: “We are grateful for the opportunity to make a submission to the Commission on Taxation and Welfare, thirteen years since the last Commission sat. It is interesting to reflect on the 2009 proposals and what has been introduced since. We have fought for the integration of the taxation and social welfare systems for many years, and welcome the fact that that the new Commission will address these two areas explicitly.”
ISME has outlined a number of recommendations for consideration by the Commission, including:
Raising the Standard Rate Cut-Off Point to 95% of the average industrial wage as soon as possible.
Pending removal of the 3% USC surcharge on the self-employed earning over €100,000, and apply this surcharge to all workers earning over €100,000.
In order to encourage the stated goal of increasing private sector pension coverage:
end the discrimination against private sector pension savers in the amount of income they can save for pensions;
maintain marginal rate relief and extend it to all savers; and
allow private sector workers with a chargeable excess tax liability, to discharge it in the same manner as a public sector worker.
Set the basic rate for qualifying for the medical card at more than 30% above the comparable Jobseekers assistance rate.
Replace the child element in the Jobseekers’ payments and all other welfare schemes by substantially increasing Child Benefit, phasing out Working Family Benefit, and at the same time making the Child Benefit taxable.
Significantly increase the income thresholds for access to social housing and reform or remove the link between income and local authority rent.
Neil McDonnell added: “We consider it of exceptional importance that the recommendations of this Commission are considered by the Oireachtas with critical urgency. We believe that the pace of tax and social welfare reform in Ireland has been too slow and hope that the Commission will impress upon the legislature the priority that must be devoted to reform.”
Chambers Ireland, the voice of business throughout Ireland, has this evening (21 January 2022) welcomed the announcement by Government to ease the public health restrictions which will provide businesses across Ireland an opportunity to reach their full potential.
Following the announcement by An Taoiseach, Chambers Ireland Chief Executive Ian Talbot said:
“The decision by Government today will come as a relief to the many business owners across Ireland who have played a crucial role in navigating the threat posed by Covid-19. Through several immensely challenging periods, they have demonstrated a strong commitment to supporting public health. Their businesses, which are hugely important to the people and strength of our local economies, now have a chance to make their full contribution to their communities and the staff they employ.
“Of course, this commitment has not been without cost. This must be recognised by Government as it considers the future of its business support schemes. Even in a best-case scenario, the risk of insolvency will still exist for businesses through no fault of their own. Existing schemes have been extremely valuable in securing continuity and stabilising the economy but, as we enter a new phase, supports will be required for those working in vulnerable sectors.
“As we manage a return to the workplace, it is also important that businesses engage with employees to deliver a safe and fair return that takes account of changes that have taken place in the last two years. For many, flexible and remote working has been a consequence of the pandemic but every effort should be made to retain the benefits it has provided to employees and the economy. The long-term benefits of doing so will be happier staff, a more inclusive labour force and higher levels of productivity.
“We must also remember that previous experience has shown that calling an end to the pandemic while the virus continues to circulate is premature. Our high vaccination level has provided an important layer of protection across the island but the threat of future variants remains. The most important step we can take to avoid that threat is to advocate for, and participate in, efforts to deliver vaccine equity and achieve high levels of protection in all regions of the world.”
The Local Enterprise Office in Wicklow helped create over 100 jobs in 2021, according to new figures released today.
The figures show that companies supported by the Wicklow Local Enterprise Office created 117 jobs during the past year, with a NET gain of 50 jobs recorded.
LEO Wicklow financially supported 31 small businesses in their portfolio across the county, with these companies in turn employing 106 people.
In total there are 148 total small businesses in the county that are supported by the Enterprise Office, which employ 655 people.
It comes as the annual results were announced at a virtual event today that was hosted by Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Leo Varadkar.
“Over 35,000 people employed in small businesses around the country have been helped in some way by our Local Enterprise Offices,” Mr Varadkar said.
“They are at the heart of communities in every county, always on hand to provide advice, training or financial backing and have proved invaluable throughout the pandemic, during which I know a huge amount of people relied on their local office.”
The head of Enterprise said the results announced are “testament to Ireland’s small business community”.
“When faced with adversity, they have adapted, pivoted, upskilled and did whatever it took to sustain themselves. The figures show that companies have seen the opportunities in the challenging trading conditions they have faced,” said Vibeke Delahunt
Chambers Ireland, the voice of business throughout Ireland, has said that carbon budgets must become a fundamental component of decision-making within public bodies if Ireland is to achieve its climate targets.
Ian Talbot, Chief Executive of Chambers Ireland, was speaking to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Environment and Climate Action today.
State decisions play a crucial role in facilitating businesses and the public to engage in climate-friendly behaviours, Talbot said. However successive Governments have failed to take adequate action to reduce our climate impact.
He said carbon budgeting must be used to support the development of projects and policies that aid decarbonisation but must not become a tool for simply allocating CO2 emissions.
“If we in the business community, and all of us in our wider society, are to be able to transition to less polluting alternative energy sources, we need the State to have laid the groundwork to ensure that those alternatives are available. There’s little point trying to send out market signals through the price mechanism if more environmentally sustainable substitutes are not available.”
Talbot said years of inadequate decision-making had resulted in unnecessary carbon emissions that would persist for decades to come.
“When communities are planned without integrated public transport networks and active transport links, the State relies on people using cars to fill in the gap where those services ought to be. When housing estates are built with no pedestrian access to shops and schools, that is the State locking in decades of transport associated CO2 emissions.”
Carbon budgets would help to remedy this by no longer allow administrations to defer action, he said.
“The rolling five-year budgets would require immediate action and to this end it needs to become a key element of both the planning process, and the planning programmes of Government.”
Talbot highlighted the Housing for All programme as an important example of how the State must account for the direct and indirect carbon emissions that follow the implementation of major infrastructure projects.
“The 300,000 housing units that will be built over the next few years as part of “Housing for All” will, in general, stand for at least a hundred years. Where they are located, what services are available to them within a fifteen-minute walk, will determine what a century of emissions will look like.”
The average take home pay of workers on the minimum wage increased over the years from 2016-2018, according to new research from the Economic and Social Research Institute.
The report also finds that the hours worked by some on the minimum wage, fell by almost one hour per week.
But the increase in the minimum wage offset any loss of earnings from fewer hours worked.
The report found the reduction in hours worked varied across employment sectors.
In industry, which is mostly made up of jobs in manufacturing, hours worked fell by three hours per week.
In accommodation and food, the fall was two-and-a-half hours per week.
In both these cases, the increase in earnings was enough to offset the falloff in hours worked.
The report notes that more research is needed to understand exactly why there was a falloff in the number of hours worked in the industry sector, where minimum wage workers tend to be older and full time compared to other sectors where minimum wage earners are younger and the minimum wage is a ‘stepping stone’ to higher pay.
The minimum wage has been increased by government every year since 2016 following recommendations from the Low Pay Commission.
The study was funded by the Commission.
The minimum wage was increased in the last Budget by 30c and currently stands at €10.50 an hour.
Chambers Ireland, the voice of business throughout Ireland, welcomes today’s announcement of additional funding for the improvement of town centres by Minister Heather Humphreys. Projects such as these have a crucial part to play in making our urban spaces livable again.
The regional towns that are the focus of the “Rural Regeneration Development Fund” (RRDF) are critical to their local economies. Bringing life back to these neglected towns is a fundamental element of the National Development Plan.
Integrated into a coherent plan for the individual towns, projects like those announced today will contribute to making our urban areas, and particularly those in the regions, great places to live and work.
Speaking after the announcement today (6 January 2022) Chambers Ireland Chief Executive, Ian Talbot said,
“Projects like the Dungarvan Digital Transformation Hub are exactly the kind of action that the government should be supporting in these towns. The ideal would be to have the workers in hubs like this making lives for themselves in those towns where they can live within walking distance of the hub.
“Public realm works, like the town square project in Oldcastle, are also commendable because they will allow the core purpose of these market towns to be restored. Meanwhile reactivating neglected buildings that are in state hands, such as the courthouse in Borris-in-Ossory, is a vital programme of activity that needs to be rapidly accelerated. Long vacant buildings are a blight upon our towns. For every day that they lie idle, they damage our communities and our local economies.”
A planning application to enhance and redevelop the Abbey Grounds, Wicklow, into the Abbey Gardens and event space was passed unanimously by the members of Wicklow Municipal District at their meeting held on Monday (Dec 20).
Wicklow County Council was awarded €500,000 Destination Town Funding from Fáilte Ireland to restore the garden, in tandem with maximising the usability of the entire site as a multi-functional public amenity and outdoor events venue.
The project will greatly enhance the visitor experience in Wicklow and provide a high-quality amenity and heritage asset that will provide a welcome focus for visitors and locals, including:
Conversion of the Coach House to a café/exhibition space and public toilets Provision of an outdoor performance area/multi use space Universal access and increased pedestrian circulation routes throughout Public seating Enhanced biodiversity consisting of high quality and attractive planting in keeping with the historical context of the site and landscape Heritage interpretation and orientation Provision of appropriate backlighting of the Abbey Ruins
Cathaoirleach of Wicklow County Council, Cllr Shay Cullen, said: “I’m delighted that the members of Wicklow Municipal District voted unanimously to approve the Part 8 application in respect of this fantastic project. The Abbey Grounds public amenity will complement the recent Fitzwilliam Square and Market Square developments and is another step in the regeneration of our County Town.”
Cathaoirleach of Wicklow Municipal District, Cllr Gail Dunne, added “this is a positive finish to the year for Wicklow Town, the Abbey Grounds is the perfect setting for outdoor events and theatre and exactly what Wicklow needs, the entire town will benefit both socially and economically”.
Mr Frank Curran, Chief Executive, Wicklow County Council, acknowledged the assistance and support of Fr Donal Roche in helping to get the project to this stage of the process and also commented that “this is really exciting news for Wicklow Town and entire county and the implementation of the project in 2022 will have a positive impact on our local economy and tourism industry. I would also like to acknowledge Fáilte Ireland’s financial assistance towards this innovative development.”