Workers deserve a right to switch off
Today the Labour Party has launched our Working from Home Bill 2020.
At the start of this year, just 9% of workers worked some or all of their time at home. The reality now that over 30% of workers will operate from well into 2021, whether we have a vaccine widely available or not.
Many issues have arisen with working from home; inadequate workspace, many working on the edge of the bed and the corrosive mental and physical health impact of being “always on.”
Workers deserve better and that is why we published our bill which will ensure workers are adequately provided for, they get a payment from their employer to cover the costs of working from home and crucially that they recognise and facilitate the right to “switch off.”
Laws in Ireland on remote working remain out of date and out of step with our European colleagues.
Flexible working can have many benefits for workers, particularly in the area of work-life balance, but as the lines between our homes and our work become increasingly blurred, it is vital that we provide the protections for workers that we would expect in any workplace.
The right to switch off will mean that workers will not be required to respond to emails, text messages, phone calls outside of their normal hours of work. If they choose to, it would be counted as work time.
Workers should never have to be ‘on call’ at all times.
Our bill will also require employers to provide a suitable home workstation and flat rate payment to cover the costs that are now being shouldered by workers.
At present, employers have a long list of responsibilities toward their workers relating to working conditions and proper equipment as set out in the Health and Safety legislation, but there is little or no enforcement and the reality is that any provisions made have been at the discretion of employers. We don’t believe this is fair. Typically it is younger or newer workers who will be looked after least. So we want to change that with our bill.
I carried out a survey during the summer on people’s experiences of working from home and found that many workers had no suitable workstation, especially those renting, and they had no clarity about supports and compensation from employers for the costs of working from home.
We must provide the support that these workers need.
Together, we can make a better future for workers.
Senator Marie Sherlock
Spokesperson on Employment Affairs, Media, Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht