For Written Answer on : 16/06/2022
Question Number(s): 151 Question Reference(s): 31080/22
Department: Enterprise, Trade and Employment
Asked by: David Stanton T.D.
To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise; Trade and Employment his views on the report entitled An Evaluation of the Impacts of Remote Working published by his Department; the actions, if any that he has taken as a result; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
I welcome the findings published in the report, which provide further evidence that remote working will, on balance, change Ireland for the better. The research was conducted in line with the goals set out in Making Remote Work, Ireland’s National Remote Work Strategy, which I launched in January 2021, and the publication of this report is just one of the many actions that have been achieved in the Strategy to date.
The report is authored by an economist in my Department who is part of the Irish Government Economic and Evaluation Service (IGEES). While research papers like this do not necessarily represent an official Government or Departmental view, I have welcomed the report and I believe the research is an important contribution to our evidence base as we continue to develop remote work policy to maximise the economic, social and environmental benefits that it can bring.
Remote working will continue to play a significant role as we emerge from the pandemic, giving workers greater work-life balance and flexibility while providing firms with increased pools of talent to choose from. 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. Female labour force participation in Ireland is currently at a record high, with over 1.2 million women in the labour force as of Q1 2022, an increase of over 100,000 from pre-pandemic levels. This is a development that is likely to be at least in part facilitated by the wider adoption of remote working arrangements.
The research also highlights how remote working can lead to more balanced regional development. 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.
My Department co-ordinated the implementation of the National Remote Work Strategy’s actions through an Interdepartmental Group. There has been significant progress in implementing these actions, and some key achievements to date are outlined below:
– 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.
– An enhanced income tax deduction for remote workers amounting to 30 percent of expenses for heat, electricity and broadband was announced in Budget 2022.
– 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.
– The Connected Hubs Fund awarded funding of €8.9m to 117 remote working hub projects and Broadband Connection Points in 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.
– The publication of the Civil Service Blended Policy Framework by DPER in March 2022 will help deliver the Programme for Government commitment to move to 20% remote working across the sector.
– 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.