The largest public service union here will begin negotiations with the Government later this week on the future for working – post pandemic.
The head of communications of Forsa, which represents around 80,000 public and civil servants, said the union wants to build on the momentum of remote working that was forced upon employees as a result of the pandemic.
Bernard Harbor said despite some initial problems, it has been a very favourable experience for workers and employers have found that productivity has been maintained or improved through remote working
Mr Harbor said the advantages of remote working for workers, employers and the economy must not be lost.
He told Morning Ireland that building a framework for the public service and identifying a good model of remote working will demonstrate good practice and how it can be achieved in public service, and across the economy.
Mr Harbor said Forsa supports the Government’s commitment to legislate for a right to request remote working and such a move would bring Ireland in line with many other EU countries.
However, he said the legislation will fall short unless it leads to more access to remote working.
Clear and transparent information is needed about what roles are suitable for remote working so employees have a form of redress if they are turned down for a spurious reason, Mr Harbor said.
Nineteen months ago there would have been a lot of scepticism about remote working, but by and large, people are behind the idea of remote working now, he added.
Mr Harbor also said that remote working should not have any impact on pay because people’s jobs, hours or productivity will not be changed.
He said there are some issues around the costs associated with remote working and issues such as higher heating costs for remote workers and these need to be addressed.
Mr Harbor said the union is more concerned about issues such as work/life balance, the right to disconnect, physical safety issues, mental health issues, inclusion in the work force, communications between an employer and remote worker, and access to career progression.
He added that “there is a need for speed” because the concern is that the situation will drift back to the 2019 way of working as employees begin to return to the office.