Parties agree public servants could work from home one day a week

By Juno McEnroe
Political Correspondent

People working in the public service should be allowed to do 20% of their work remotely, the three parties in government formation talks have agreed.

Thousands of workers in departments and agencies will be offered the choice of working out of office, thereby saving costs and reducing carbon emissions with less traffic.

Negotiating sources confirmed the agreed level and said it translated into allowing people work out of office one day a week.

An assessment of work productivity during the Covid-19 pandemic among public services is set to be carried out to help formulate plans for mass remote working.

The plan was discussed during talks on rural development between Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil, and the Greens on Thursday.

Some involved likened it to a ‘rural decentralisation’, which would allow people to work from home rather than go into offices in towns.

“You can work from home or a local digital hub,” said a negotiator. 

“It will ensure broadband is covered and increase footfalls in some towns and villages that are dying.”

It is understood that Green Party negotiator Róisín Garvey pushed for 40% of work in the public sector to be allowed done remotely, but that Tánaiste Simon Coveney, for Fine Gael, was against this because of concerns about productivity.

The decentralisation debacle was originally introduced in 2003 to move over 10,000 public servants out of Dublin. 

The Fine Gael-led government looked at regional decentralisation last year to reduce pressure on housing and transport in the capital.

With the pandemic showing levels of satisfaction with remote working for staff and employers alike, the parties believe this can be taken further if a coalition is agreed by the parties.

Meanwhile, there is fresh pressure for a new coalition deal to be agreed by the end of June.

Legislation for European Investment Bank emergency pandemic funding, on renewing the writ of the Special Criminal Court, and new Brexit measures all need to be enacted by the end of June, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said, and the new Seanad must also be agreed.