Varadkar rules out working from home right: 'We need to be realistic'

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Varadkar rules out working from home right: 'We need to be realistic'

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An Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has ruled out making work from home an absolute right for employees, saying it 'has to be realistic' going forward. He was sp

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An Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has ruled out making work from home an absolute right for employees, saying it ‘has to be realistic’ going forward.

He was speaking after the Government revealed details to give people the right to request remote working.

Under the proposals anyone working for a company for more than six months can apply to work remotely, and the employer would have to respond within three months.

Workers whose request is turned down can appeal to the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC).

It comes amid calls from the Social Democrats to embrace remote working as a right for workers, not an option.

However Mr Varadkar told Breakfast Business with Joe Lynam this cannot happen.

“I’m a big fan of remote working and hybrid working and home working.

“I think it’ll be very good in terms of rural and regional development, to get more people working in remote hubs in small towns and villages.

“My basic view is that employers should facilitate it, and should be willing to do so – provided the business gets done, and provided the services that are provided to the public aren’t diminished in any way.

“That’d be my kind of benchmark as to whether people should be allowed to work remotely or work from home.

“During the pandemic it was a requirement, as much as possible after the pandemic I want it to be a choice.

“But we also need to be realistic, it can’t be an absolute right”.

Citing examples such as construction and hospitality, he says: “There’s lots of jobs that can’t be done remotely.

“There’s some things that you could do remotely, but they wouldn’t be done as well and then service users would lose out.

“So we need to be realistic about that”.

‘A sensible approach’

He also believes that people going to the WRC in a dispute over remote working would be rare.

“It won’t be a case of the Workplace Relations Commission going into a business and telling you how to run your business.

“But they will be able to say that if the refusal is manifestly unfair, that it needs to be reconsidered.

“I think there’ll be a sensible approach to this.

“I often say people have the right to annual leave, for example, two million people exercise that right every year.

“How many cases go the WRC? Very few”.

Asked about a report on a gathering in June 2020 at the Department of Foreign Affairs, he believes Minister Simon Coveney should not have to resign.

“The report on that has now been issued, and that shows it wasn’t an organised party by any means, that people were there for the purposes of work and that the law was not broken.

“There was a brief breach of social distancing guidelines, people didn’t have to wear masks in offices at the time but they were bunched up in a photograph – that was the breach.

“That shouldn’t have happened, that was wrong and there have been consequences for the people involved.

“But I think we can be overly-puritanical about these things sometimes.

“The people who were there made a mistake, they accept that, they’ve apologised for it and the Minister – who was not there, who had no role in organising it – I don’t think it’d be fair for him to be forced to resign over something like that”.

Working from Home ‘can’t be an absolute right’ – Varadkar

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Main image: Tanaiste Leo Varadkar speaks to the media in January 2022. Picture by: PA Images / Alamy Stock Photo / Dominic McGrath

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