Deputy Thomas Pringle has called the ‘Working from Home’ bill a small step in the right direction, saying that Covid-19 has changed the way we work.
However, he said the bill won’t fix everything.
Speaking in the Dáil on Labour’s Working from Home (Covide-19) Bill today, Deputy Pringle said the issues of the ‘right to switch off’ and the access that employers have to employees have become far more prevalent in this digital era.
Deputy Pringle said that when the pandemic erupted, people were suddenly asked to work from home, juggling family responsibilities and broadband issues while schools and creches closed.
He said: “People’s normal working hours became skewed, and I fear that this new flexibility and accessibility to employees will be abused by employers. Instead of this being a positive opportunity to address the benefits of remote working and flexible working hours, it has generally been used to squeeze as much productivity out of people while ignoring any negative impacts on their mental health.”
He said working from home has potentially great benefits for increased participation in the workforce for persons with disabilities, persons with caring responsibilities and people living outside of cities and urban areas.
At the same time, he said work-life balance has been steadily eroded in recent years, “with the capitalist society pushing us all to work longer hours, be more available to employers, clients and colleagues at all times of day or night, and even while on annual leave.
“With Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael constantly pushing up the pension ages, when do we think we will get the time to relax and spend with family?” he asked, saying he was a strong advocate of the Four Day Week Ireland campaign.
Deputy Pringle also raised the gender aspect, noting that research shows that even when both parents work from home, the woman takes on most of the unpaid work and caring duties.
“I haven’t even mentioned yet those living in overcrowded accommodation without access to workspaces and the myriad inequities this pandemic has shone some much-needed spotlights on,” Deputy Pringle said. “Let’s take the awfulness of this year and make something positive for the future.”