Free shared offices for remote working are “doomed to failure” unless the government introduces legislation guaranteeing the right to flexible working, it has been claimed.
Anyone who wants to try local remote work centers can benefit from three free vouchers under a scheme announced by Rural and Community Development Minister Heather Humphreys.
At least 10,000 shared office spaces will be provided under the program to encourage more employees to use this option.
Current hub users, as well as those accessing the facilities for the first time, can take advantage of the three free working days by the end of August.
However, Labor’s spokeswoman for jobs and workers’ rights, Marie Sherlock, said the initiative “avoids” the real problem and that the government must ensure the right to flexible working.
“The government is on the one hand subsidizing remote working while failing to meet the clear demand for a legislative right to flexible work,” Ms Sherlock said.
Legislation allowing employees to request remote work was proposed by Tánaiste Leo Varadkar but has been criticized by opposition parties as it still provides employers with 13 different reasons why they can refuse such requests.
Ms Sherlock said: ‘The reality is that the government produced a very narrow and rigid bill in January and, despite promises to make changes, we have yet to see anything substantial to suggest that changes other than symbols will be brought.
“There’s no point in just saying ‘have a conversation’ with an employer without workplace protections to prove it.”
Ms Humphreys said the Right to Request Remote Work Bill was currently undergoing pre-legislative scrutiny, adding that Mr Varadkar had already said he was committed to strengthening the legislation.
Announcing the voucher scheme, Ms Humphreys encouraged people to take the opportunity to test work from one of the 241 remote centers already operating across the country.
Ms Humphreys said the cost of working in remote hubs varies but ranges from around €10 to €18 per day and workers can book a desk or office space in their local hub through the Connected Hubs app.
“If people can work remotely, they’ll find a hub very close because there are so many hubs across the country now,” she said. “So rather than traveling to Dublin, for example, you could stay here in Dundalk.
“We know from talking to people that they’re more productive and happier when they can work and live in their community and don’t have to deal with that long commute.”
Ms Humphreys also announced €5 million in funding, under the Connected Hubs 2022 call, which will be used to build capacity and improve existing remote working facilities.
Some 81 projects across the country have successfully secured funding.
In addition to these two initiatives, Ms Humphreys is making €50,000 of funding available to each local authority as part of the Towns and Villages Renewal Programme.
This will be used for marketing campaigns and promoting remote work opportunities available in their regions.