Employees in Ireland now have the right to generally disconnect from work outside of normal working hours, including the right not to respond immediately to emails, telephone calls or other messages. The measures feature in a code of practice published by Ireland’s Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) on 1 Apr 2021, took immediate effect, and apply to all types of employment. The code was developed by the WRC and is one measure featured in the government’s remote working strategy published in January 2021.
The code, which includes practical guidance and best practices, aims to foster workplace cultures that enable employees to disconnect from work, work-related devices and communications. However, the code does not offer an absolute right to disconnect, and recognizes that business and organizational needs could require occasional out of hours working for some employees. The Irish Business and Employers Confederation (Ibec), has welcomed the code, noting it is “positive” that the code focuses on best practice, “rather than layering on further legislation in circumstances where the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997 already provides a very effective and defined entitlement to disconnect.”
Employers do not have to follow the code, but failure to do so will be taken into account by the WRC, labor and criminal courts. The government also published the Our Rural Future plan on 29 Mar 2021, which is a blueprint to facilitate remote and flexible work for rural citizens, and a consultation was launched on 1 Apr 2021 on the right to request remote working, and invites input through 7 May 2021.