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Enterprise, Trade and Employment | To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise; Trade and Employment the extent to which working from home and from the workplace arrangements have been sufficiently co-ordinated, in order to ensure the availability of the necessary opportunities for employees, as well as filling the employment places now readily available

To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise; Trade and Employment the extent to which working from home and from the workplace arrangements have been sufficiently co-ordinated, in order to ensure the availability of the necessary opportunities for employees, as well as filling the employment places now readily available; and if he will make a statement on the matter.


My Department published the National Remote Work Strategy on January 15th, 2021. The Strategy identified 15 actions to ensure that remote work is a permanent feature in the Irish workplace in a way that maximises its economic, social and environmental benefits.

The potential benefits of increased remote working include improved work-life balance and fewer emissions from commuting. Remote work has the potential to increase labour market participation by women, people with disabilities, people with caring responsibilities and older people. Remote working will result in more balanced regional development and new job opportunities for those living in rural Ireland.  Employers that embrace remote and flexible working arrangements will be rewarded with greater access to talent.

Female labour market participation in Ireland, for example, is currently at record levels. In Q4 2021, the female labour force participation rate stood at 60.0 percent- an increase from 54.4 percent in Q4 2020, a development at least in part facilitated by the wider adoption of remote working arrangements.

Remote working will be a key mechanism for achieving our employment targets, helping those most distant from the labour force into work, and further contributing to achieving our ambitious climate targets.

My Department co-ordinated the implementation of the Strategy’s actions through an Interdepartmental Group. There has been significant progress in implementing these actions which will facilitate remote working opportunities for both employees and employers both now and into the future. I would highlight the following actions taken under the Strategy towards achieving this:

– On 25th January, the Government approved the priority drafting of the Right to Request Remote Working Bill 2022. The new law will set out a clear legal framework around which requesting, approving or refusing such a request can be based. Pre-legislative scrutiny of the General Scheme by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Enterprise, Trade and Employment commenced on 9th of February, with three meetings having been held to date. Officials in my Department attended a further meeting on 18th May. The intention remains that the Bill will be progressed through the Oireachtas as quickly as possible. Following publication of the Joint Oireachtas Committee’s Report on pre-legislative scrutiny, any recommendations made will be reviewed and considered. I want to emphasise that I am happy to listen to proposed amendments to the Bill.

– The publication of the Code of Practice on the Right to Disconnect in April 2021 by the Workplace Relations Commission.

– In Budget 2022, an enhanced income tax deduction for people working from home was announced. It amounts to 30 percent of the cost of vouched expenses for heat, electricity and broadband.

– The Government is investing heavily in remote work infrastructure throughout the country to ensure that communities across Ireland are in a position to benefit from the opportunities presented by increased remote working.

– Ireland’s first national digital hub network- was launched by the Department of Rural and Community Development in May 2021. will ultimately link over 400 hubs throughout our country.

– The Connected Hubs Fund awarded funding of €8.9m to 117 remote working hub projects and Broadband Connection Pointsin July 2021 to upgrade Ireland’s remote work infrastructure. An additional €5m has been made available under the 2022 Connected Hubs Call. €18.5m in funding under the Town and Village Renewal Scheme was also announced recently, with successful projects including 28 remote working proposals.

– To date, a total of approximately €100m has been provided by the Department of Rural and Community Development through its various funding streams to support the development of remote working infrastructure across the country. This includes €76 million in funding for projects under the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund (RRDF), many of which involved the regeneration of historic town centre buildings as enterprise centres and co-working hubs.

– In October 2021, over €9.3 million in funding was awarded to projects around the country through Enterprise Ireland’s Regional Enterprise Transition Scheme, with successful applicants including hubs and enterprise centres throughout the country.

– My Department recently published new Regional Enterprise Plans to 2024 in which there is a focus on promoting remote working opportunities and investing in infrastructures across the nine regions. The plans were launched at regional locations during February and March 2022.

– While National Broadband Plan has been impacted negatively by COVID-19, the Department of Environment, Climate and Communications is continuing to engage with National Broadband Ireland to address the delays that have arisen to ensure that the programme gets back on track and is building momentum month on month.

– The Civil Service Blended Working Policy Framework was published by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform on March 31st, 2022, which will help deliver the Programme for Government commitment to move to 20% remote/home working across the sector.

– Ongoing remote work promotion and guidance including advice for employers and employees on best practice, health and safety, equality and skills by a range of agencies including the Health and Safety Authority, Enterprise Ireland, IDA Ireland, Western Development Commission, Údarás na Gaeltachta, Skillnet Ireland and local Education and Training Boards.

– My Department is continuing to develop and promote its Guidance for Working Remotely webpage. This webpage acts as a central access point for employers and employees and brings together the existing State guidance, legislation and advice on remote work into one place. The webpage is a live resource and is updated regularly. The webpage includes an Employer Checklist to provide employers with a quick way to successfully navigate the adoption of remote working arrangements.

–  On May 18th, an Irish Government Irish Government Economic and Evaluation Service (IGGES) research paper was published which found that remote working is likely to have a positive impact on the Irish economy and society.  The paper, “An Evaluation of the Impacts of Remote Working” examines the impact of remote working on several key policy areas, finding positive effects on productivity, the environment, regional development, private finances, and labour market participation.

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