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Working from home post COVID-19 lockdown | Part 2

Can an employee request to work from home?

The Employment Relations Act provides a mechanism for employees to request permanent or temporary changes to their working arrangements. These requests may be for changes to hours of work, days of work, start and/or finish times, and where the work is performed. If an employee wants to make a formal request, they must do so in writing and must specify the proposed changes, the date they would like the changes to commence and the period of time they would like to work the alternative arrangements. When an employer receives a formal request, they are required to notify the employee in writing of their decision, as soon as possible, and no later than one month after receiving it. If the request is declined the employer must set out the reasons for this and the grounds for refusal. There are specified grounds for refusal in the Act, including the inability to reorganise work amongst existing staff, detrimental impact on quality or performance, insufficiency of work during the periods that the employee wants to work, the burden of additional cost and the detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand. Whilst the employer is required to consider and respond to requests for flexible working arrangements under the Act, as long as they do this, an employee cannot challenge their employer’s refusal to agree to a request. In other words, as long as the employer follows the procedural requirements the Employment Relations Authority will not scrutinise their decision making. An employer does not have to agree to flexible working arrangements if they consider it may adversely impact their business and employees cannot insist on working from home or refuse to attend the workplace.

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