The government has launched the 'Making Remote Work' National Remote Work Strategy, which aims to ensure that remote working "is a permanent feature in the Irish workplace that maximises economic, social and environmental benefits". Under the strategy, the government promises to, among other things, mandate that remote work be the norm for 20% of public sector employees and develop a code of practice for the right to disconnect.
Under the latest Level 5 restrictions, employees in Ireland must work from home unless they are classified as essential workers and their work cannot be done at home. The government has updated the list of essential workers to provide that it does not include workers who perform administrative or other support activities for businesses, unless these constitute essential administrative and support activities and the physical presence of the administrative or support worker in the workplace is required.
On 1 September 2020 unpaid parental leave entitlement in Ireland was increased from 22 weeks to 26 weeks. This means that eligible parents will be able to take 26 weeks' parental leave for each child who falls within the prescribed thresholds. Employers should check their policies and procedures to take into account the increase from 1 September 2020 onwards.
This article discusses the key measures under the new government's July Stimulus Plan of which employers should be aware, plus various commitments under its Programme for Government which could have a significant impact in workplaces. The proposals – which cover wage subsidies, job creation and recovery and work-life balance and equality, among other things – clearly reflect the new economic reality in the wake of COVID-19.
The government recently published the General Scheme for the Parental Leave and Benefit Bill. The bill provides for a paid parental leave benefit, which must be used within the first 12 months of a child's life or 12 months from the date of adoption. In light of these changes, employers should not only consider whether they should top up the parental leave benefit, but also review their family leave policies more generally to ensure that their business is in line with the latest developments.
A recent Supreme Court decision clarifies the legal principles to be applied to the question of which measures of reasonable accommodation an employer should consider to enable disabled employees to participate in the workforce. While the decision provides welcome guidance on the applicable principles, employers must consider that what constitutes 'reasonable accommodation' will depend on the facts, guided by the reasonableness and proportionality of any appropriate measures proposed.