Working from home
Workers can return to the workplace. You can read more about returning to the workplace.
Employers must ensure the safety, health and welfare at work of all their employees. Your employer has the same duty of care for your health and safety when you are working from home (also called remote working). Employees also have responsibilities when they are working from home.
Upcoming changes on the right to request remote working
The draft Right to Request Remote Work Bill 2021 has been published. Once enacted, it will give employees a legal right to request remote working.
The draft provisions of the Bill are:
- All employers will need to have a written policy on working from home. The policy will set out how remote working requests are managed and the conditions that will apply to remote working generally within the business.
- Your employer will be able to refuse a request for remote working if there are reasonable grounds. The reasonable grounds will be set out in the legislation (see draft reasons below).
- If your request for remote working is refused, you will have to wait a set period of time before you can make another request (the current draft sets this as 12 months, unless you move role).
- You will have a right to appeal to the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) where your employer does not responded to your request, does not give you reasonable grounds for a refusal or penalises you for accessing your right to request remote working. The WRC will be able to make a binding decision or impose fines.
- A Code of Practice will be developed to give employers guidance on implementing the new law.
As currently drafted, the reasonable grounds to refuse a request for remote working are:
- The nature of the work not allowing for it to be done remotely
- Cannot reorganise work among existing staff
- Potential negative impact on quality or performance
- Planned structural changes
- Burden of additional costs
- Concerns about business confidentiality or intellectual property
- Concerns about the suitability of the proposed workspace on health and safety grounds or data protection grounds
- Concerns about the internet connectivity of the proposed remote working location
- Excessive distance between the proposed remote location and on-site location
- If the proposed remote working arrangement conflicts with the provisions of a collective agreement
- Ongoing or recently concluded formal disciplinary processes
The draft Bill needs to go through the full legislative procedure before it becomes law.
The Government has called on employers to start to develop or finalise their long-term arrangements for blended or remote working now that the draft legislation has been published. The remote or working from home policy should be developed in consultation with workers and Trade Unions.
Can I continue to work from home now COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted?
Workers can return to the workplace.
You do not have a right to work from home. Legislation is under discussion which will give you a legal right to request remote working but it will be up to your employer to agree to the request. See ‘Upcoming changes on the right to request remote working’ above.
Check what your contract says
Your employment rights are primarily set out in your contract of employment. Some employees may have already written into their contract of employment that they can work from home for a number of hours or days per week. Those entitlements will remain the same.
Most contracts of employment have a requirement that the employee must appear at a designated place of work. It is also common for employers to have a right to change the designated place of work. In those circumstances, employers can insist on you returning to the workplace.
You should talk to your employer first to see if you can continue to work from home. This will vary between employers, you may be allowed to have a ‘blended’ or ‘hybrid’ work arrangement, which is a mix of working from home and in the workplace. The Government has asked employers to develop longer-term arrangements for blended or remote working having regard to their operational requirements.
Employers have specific duties to ensure the safety, health and welfare at work of all their employees. These duties include the employee’s workspace if employees work from home. Key duties include:
- Managing and conducting all work activities to ensure, as far as reasonably practicable, the safety, health and welfare of employees
- Providing safe work that is planned, organised, and maintained
- Assessing risks and implementing appropriate control measures
- Providing safe equipment including personal protective equipment, where necessary
- Giving information, instruction, training and supervision about safety and health to employees
- Having plans in place for emergencies
If employees have a disability, are young workers or are pregnant, employers need to ensure that the tasks and working conditions do not adversely affect their health. You can get more information on sensitive risk groups.
Your employer should check with you to ensure:
- You are aware of any specific risks when working from home
- The work activity and the temporary workspace are suitable
- You have suitable equipment to do the work. For example, your employer should make sure that the applications and systems you need are installed on your computer
- There is a pre-arranged means of contact
Equipment and your workspace at home
If your employer provides equipment, for example, a laptop, mouse, keyboard and headset it must be in good condition and suitable for the activity. If you already have suitable equipment at home, it can be used temporarily.
Employers must check that your temporary home workspace is suitable for the work. This includes things like safe access to the space, essential equipment, that the space is big enough and free of clutter, there is adequate lighting, ventilation, heat, and that electrical sockets, plugs and cords are in good condition.
You can find tips on how to manage work-related musculoskeletal health and other advice on ergonomics on the HSA website.
Employers need to communicate regularly with employees and ensure that employees are taking adequate breaks.
Employers should also:
- Keep in contact with employees
- Give regular updates to each employee
- Have emergency contacts and procedures in place
- Ensure employees take adequate breaks – see our document on rest periods and breaks.
Even though you are working from home you should have the same access to training and promotion opportunities as comparable colleagues working in the office.
The right to disconnect from work
As well as making sure your employee takes adequate breaks, you should also respect their right to disconnect from work outside of normal working hours.
The Code of Practice on the Right to Disconnect (pdf) is effective since 1 April 2021 and applies to all employees, including people working from home. Developed by the WRC, the Code of Practice provides guidance on an employee’s right to disengage from work outside normal working hours.
Under the code, the right to disconnect has the following main elements:
- A right not have to routinely work outside normal working hours
- A right not to be penalised for refusing to work outside normal hours
- A duty to respect another person’s right to disconnect, for example by not routinely emailing or calling outside normal working hours
As an employer, you are encouraged to develop a ‘Right to Disconnect Policy’. Consult your employees when developing this policy, and make sure they understand what their normal working hours are.
Check that the policy factors in health and safety legislation, as well as your employees’ terms and conditions of employment. You should communicate this policy to all employees, unions and any other employee representatives.
You can find a template of a ‘Right to Disconnect Policy’ (pdf) on page 11 of the WRC handbook.
While failure to follow the code is not an offence, it can be used as evidence in a case taken to the Labour Court or WRC under employment legislation.
If you are working from home, you have a responsibility to take reasonable care of yourself and other people who may be affected by the work you are doing.
- Cooperate with your employer and follow their instructions
- Protect yourself and others from harm during the course of your work. For example, you must take care of your equipment and report any problems immediately to your employer
- Report injuries to your employer immediately
- Follow any procedures put in place by your employer, for example, around checking in regularly
- Make sure you manage your own working time (see 'right to disconnect' below)
- Agree temporary remote working arrangements with your employer, including regular communication with them
- Identify the work to be done at home with your employer
- Identify the equipment you need to set up a safe workspace at home and agree this with your employer
- Identify a suitable safe space within your home for home working
- Agree plans and contacts to be used in the event of an emergency
- Ensure you have a suitable workspace – See good positioning at your workstation (pdf)
You have a right to disconnect from work outside of your usual working hours. This means you have the right to switch off and not respond immediately to work-related emails, calls or messages outside of usual work times. Similarly, you should respect your colleagues’ right to disconnect from their work too. Read about the Code of Practice on the Right to Disconnect (pdf) in the WRC handbook.
People working from home may feel reluctant to tell their employer that they are unwell. It is important to note that if you are feeling unwell the normal sick leave rules still apply.
General tips for working from home
We have summarised general tips to help you look after your health and well-being while working from home. Try to:
- Stick to your normal routine as much as possible, starting your day as you normally would: shower, getting dressed and eating breakfast
- Keep times for lunch, dinner as close to normal as you can
- When taking breaks resist the temptation to just go and make a coffee and come back to your workspace. Make the effort to go into another room or out to the garden, if you have one
- Log off for your lunch break
- If your partner is also working from home, arrange to have breaks together in another room or in the garden, if you have one
- Give your eyes a break, for 5 to 10 minutes every hour. Get up, move around and take your eyes off the screen
- Try to limit your social and news media intake
- Exercise, stretch and go out for a walk if possible
- Make sure you rest and get a good night’s sleep
- Restrict the amount of alcohol you consume during the week to help you stay focused
- Eat healthy foods even though as it is tempting to increase your intake of snack foods
- Keep in touch with your colleagues, pick up the phone or video call colleagues that you would usually spend breaks or lunchtime with and chat to them for a few minutes
Data protection and cybersecurity when working from home
The Data Protection Commission has given guidance on protecting personal data when working remotely.
Both employers and employees should ensure that:
- Any device used has the necessary updates, such as operating system, software and antivirus updates
- Any device is used in a safe location, and that nobody else can view the screen, particularly if working with sensitive personal data
- Devices are locked if they are left unattended for any reason and stored carefully when not in use
- Effective access controls, such as strong passwords, and, where available, encryption are used to restrict access to the device, and to reduce the risk if a device is stolen or lost
- Work email accounts rather than personal ones are used for work-related emails involving personal data. If personal email has to be used, any contents and attachments should be encrypted and personal or confidential data should be avoided in subject lines
- Where possible only the organisation’s trusted networks or cloud services are used
- Steps are taken to ensure the security and confidentiality of paper records, such as by keeping them locked in a filing cabinet or drawer when not in use and making sure they are not left somewhere where they could be read by others, lost or stolen
The National Cyber Security Centre has published Working From Home Security Advice (pdf).
There are certain privacy rules that your employer must follow when monitoring you in the workplace and these rules also apply when you are working from home. You can get information in our document on surveillance in the workplace.
E-working and tax relief
If you are working from home, you may be eligible for tax relief on expenses like light, heat, telephone and broadband.
If your employer pays you an allowance towards these expenses, you can get up to €3.20 per day without paying any tax, PRSI or USC on it. If your employer pays more than €3.20 per day to cover expenses, you pay tax, PRSI and USC as normal on the amount above €3.20.
If your employer does not pay you an allowance for your expenses, you can make a claim for tax relief at the end of the year. You will get money back from the taxes you paid. From January 2022, you can claim remote working relief for 30% of the cost of heating, electricity and broadband for days spent working from home.
You can read more about E-working and tax relief.
Should I pay tax on equipment from my employer?
If your employer gives you equipment that you need to do your work, like a computer or printer, and you mainly use it for work, it is not considered a benefit in kind. This means that you do not have to pay any tax for receiving the equipment from your employer.
Capital Gains Tax
If you use only part of your home for e-working, your home remains your Principal Private Residence and you are not liable for CGT when you sell it.
You can get more information from Revenue.
Where to get more information
Find out more about:
- Guidance for working remotely
- Your employment rights during COVID-19
- Protecting Personal Data When Working Remotely on the Data Protection Commissioner's website
- Changes to your contract of employment
- Your right to disconnect from work (pdf) outside of normal working hours
- The Government’s National Remote Work Strategy which aims to make remote working a permanent option in Ireland
You can also visit the remote working section of the HSA website for guidance on all aspects of working from home, including FAQs and advice for stress management.