Right to request flexible and remote working now in operation

12 March 2024 3 min read

By Alice Duffy and Des Cooke

At a glance

  • The long-promised Code of Practice (Code) on the new right to request remote or flexible working was published on 7 March 2024 by the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC).
  • The Code contains a new cause of action for employees against the decisions of their employers in relation to flexible and remote working. 

The long-promised Code on the new right to request remote or flexible working was published on 7 March 2024 by the WRC. The Code compliments Section 31(1) of the Work Life Balance and Miscellaneous Provisions Act 2023, which is the legislative basis for the rights.

The Code contains a new cause of action for employees against the decisions of their employers in relation to flexible and remote working. However, the WRC can only assess the process that was used by an employer in reaching its decision. It cannot assess the merits of any decision made in relation to flexible or remote working.

Flexible working

Definition

Can include part-time work, 'term-time' work, job sharing, flexi-time, compressed working hours or remote working.

Qualifying criteria 

Six months continuous service; and

Caring for:

  • a child under the age of 12;
  • a child with a disability under the age of 16; or
  • someone living in the same household who requires significant medical care.
Framework

Request: A request must be made by an employee to their employer outlining their circumstances and their desired working pattern.

Response: The employer then has four weeks to respond, with the possibility of extending this to eight weeks where it is difficult to assess the request. If the employer chooses to decline the request, they must provide written notice of this refusal alongside reasons for the refusal.

Potential offences

Where an employee feels that their flexible working request has not been considered in line with the Code, and internal grievance measures fail to rectify this issue, the employee may refer the case to the WRC.

If the WRC finds that the process used by an employer to reach a decision in relation to a flexible working arrangement was unfair, it may reward an employee up to ten weeks remuneration.

Employers are also barred from penalising employees who exercise their right to request flexible working.

Remote working

Definition 

An arrangement where an employee carries out their role at a location other than their employer’s place of business without change to their hours or duties.

Qualifying criteria

Six months continuous service.

Framework

Request: A request must be made by an employee to their employer outlining details of their remote working arrangement, including how many and which days of the week will be worked remotely. The request must also detail the reason(s) for the request. Suggested reasons include:

  • reducing the daily commute and carbon foot-print;
  • optimising quality of life outside normal working hours;
  • personal or domestic circumstances; or
  • neurodiversity or special medical needs or circumstances which could favour a quiet working environment or facilities not always available in the office.

The request must also include the proposed working location and confirmation of the new workplace’s suitability.

Response: The employer then has four weeks to respond, with the possibility of extending this to eight weeks where it is difficult to assess the request. If the employer chooses to decline the request, they must provide written notice of this refusal alongside reasons for the refusal.

Potential offences

Where an employee feels that their remote working request has not been considered in line with the Code, and internal grievance measures fail to rectify this issue, the employee may refer the case to the WRC.

If the WRC finds that the process used by an employer to reach a decision in relation to a flexible working arrangement was unfair, it may reward an employee up to four weeks remuneration.

Employers are also barred from penalising employees who exercise their right to request remote working.

Employers are encouraged to update their policies on flexible and remote working in light of this new entitlement. Please contact a member of the DLA Piper Ireland employment team if you require assistance with this task.

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