Dickson Concerned that Dodds has ‘No Immediate Plans to Develop a Remote Working Strategy’ for NI
East Antrim Alliance MLA, Stewart Dickson, posed a question to the Minsiter for the Economy asking whether she had any intention of developing a remote working strategy, to ensure that the benefits of remote working are maximised, and current employment rights law in this area are fit for purpose.
Explaining his question, Mr Dickson said: “We will all be happy to see the back of Covid, however the sudden disruption to our ways of working has unearthed some benefits that we will not want to lose going forwards; namely more agile working.
“I was hoping that this was something that the Minsiter would be making moves to safeguard, but her response hasn’t filled me with confidence.”
The response received from the Minsiter stated that she has: “No immediate plans to develop a remote working strategy”, suggesting that the current employment law framework is sufficient.
Mr Dickson said: “NI employees can request a flexible working package from their employer, and I imagine that after the Covid experience, the majority of employers will be accommodating.
“However, home working cannot go on indefinitely without any regulation for workers and employers alike.
“In East Antrim alone, I have heard numerous stories about homebased employees feeling spied upon by their employers who are monitoring their keystrokes, whilst others feel wholly unsupported by employers who rarely check in and no longer take their supervisory duties seriously.
“And then there are the health and wellbeing implications of homebased working”.
Mr Dickson went on: “Employers have a statutory duty to ensure employees are operating in safe working environments – however, over the past year we have seen that many people are trying to work at poorly constructed work stations, and are failing to switch off at the end of the day.
“If the Department for the Economy refuses to implement a strategy to - at the very least - provide guidance and support for workers and employers, I fear we will see increased employee exploitation, the emergence of murky and unhealthy workplace practices and cultures, and a decrease in the health and wellbeing of workers.”
Mr Dickson concluded by imploring the Minister for the Economy to think again about the need for a remote working strategy, saying: “The Minister has a brief window to put the infrastructure in place for best practice remote working. I hope she has the foresight, and the ambition, to be proactive in this space.”