New Ways of Working

Explore and keep track of key legal and compliance considerations for multinational employers as new ways of working become increasingly embedded as the pandemic begins to recede. Learn more about the response taken in specific countries or build your own report to compare approaches taken around the world.

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01. Has the government introduced any laws and/or issued guidelines around remote-working arrangements? If so, what categories of worker do the laws and/or guidelines apply to – do they extend to “gig” workers and other independent contractors?

01. Has the government introduced any laws and/or issued guidelines around remote-working arrangements? If so, what categories of worker do the laws and/or guidelines apply to – do they extend to “gig” workers and other independent contractors?

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Ireland

Ireland

  • at Littler

The General Scheme of the Right to Request Remote Working Bill 2022 (the “General Scheme”) was published in January 2022 (see here).  Once enacted, the legislation, will introduce a legal framework in Ireland for employees to request remote working arrangements.

The General Scheme provides an overview of what is likely to be contained in the Right to Request Remote Working Bill.  It is proposed that all workplaces will be required to have a remote working policy, specifying the manner in which remote working requests will be managed, the time frame in which a decision will be made and the specific terms which will apply to remote working arrangements.  Failure to do so may result in a fine of up to €2,500.  It is proposed that employers will be required to bring this policy to the attention of employees on commencement of employment and at least annually thereafter, or when amended.  

The General Scheme provides that employers will be permitted to decline a request for remote working were satisfied that, in its view, the request is not suitable on business grounds.  The General Scheme sets out a list of non-exhaustive business grounds.  It is proposed that employers will be required to respond to requests within 12 weeks.

In line with most Irish employment protections, it is anticipated that this right will be limited to employees only, and so will not extend to independent contractors or “gig” workers who are not employees.

The legislation is expected to be finalised and implemented later this year, with plans to develop a code of practice to provide employers with further guidance.  In the meantime, the government has introduced guidance for working remotely (see here) and a remote working checklist for employers (see here).

Last updated on 16/08/2022

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United States

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Yes, many states have passed laws that recognise remote-working arrangements. This includes laws concerning employee reimbursement of costs relating to remote work, workers’ compensation, tax, timekeeping and meal breaks, data privacy, and providing accommodation.  Because companies may be legally considered to be employers or “co-employers” of consultants and contractors, these rules may also apply to non-employees.

Up-to-date information on the USA’s response to the pandemic, including State-level news and developments, can be found at Littler’s covid hub here.

Last updated on 21/09/2021

02. Outline the key data protection risks associated with remote working in your jurisdiction.

02. Outline the key data protection risks associated with remote working in your jurisdiction.

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Ireland

Ireland

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The Data Protection Commissioner has issued guidance on the protection of personal data when working remotely (see here).

The key risks identified relate to protecting and preventing access to laptops, USBs, phones, tablets and other devices; emails; using unsecured networks to transmit data or to access company networks; and ensuring the security and confidentiality of hard-copy documents.

Employers should update data protection policies to take account of remote working and should also consider any data protection issues that may arise from an employee moving to work outside of Ireland.

Last updated on 21/09/2021

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United States

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Data privacy rules vary from state to state. Remote work, in particular, raises issues where employers have less control over the working environment and employees are potentially accessing sensitive information in their home that they share with others.  Employers should ensure that employees working remotely can demonstrate that their location provides sufficient privacy, security, and safety to secure the confidentiality of the employee’s work, company information and materials.  Additionally, health-related data must be protected and employers should be required to protect trade secrets and other confidential data. Employers must also maintain reasonable security measures to protect sensitive personally identifying information. 

Up-to-date information on the USA’s response to the pandemic, including State-level news and developments, can be found at Littler’s covid hub here.

Last updated on 21/09/2021

03. What are the limits on employer monitoring of worker activity in the context of a remote-working arrangement and what other factors should employers bear in mind when monitoring worker activity remotely?

03. What are the limits on employer monitoring of worker activity in the context of a remote-working arrangement and what other factors should employers bear in mind when monitoring worker activity remotely?

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Ireland

Ireland

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Employers must have regard to an employee’s right to privacy and data protection rights. They must have a legal basis under GDPR for processing employee personal data in that manner and must also be able to demonstrate that the monitoring in question is a necessary and proportionate action to achieve a legitimate aim; and that there is no less intrusive alternative way of achieving that purpose.

Guidance from the Data Protection Commissioner has focused on employers being transparent regarding the measures they adopt, including the purpose of collecting any personal data; minimising the amount of data that is processed; and preserving the confidentiality of any such data.

Last updated on 21/09/2021

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United States

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Monitoring and surveillance laws vary from state to state, and there are also, potentially, tort and criminal laws regarding invasion of privacy that must be considered where the employee has an expectation of privacy.  While audio or key-stroke monitoring may be minimally intrusive, video surveillance is almost always problematic. Some states require only one-party consent for audio monitoring, but others require that all the parties to a conversation consent to such monitoring.

Up-to-date information on the USA’s response to the pandemic, including State-level news and developments, can be found at Littler’s covid hub here.

Last updated on 21/09/2021

04. Are employers required to provide work equipment (for example, computers and other digital devices) or to pay for or reimburse employees for costs associated with remote working (for example, internet and electricity costs)?

04. Are employers required to provide work equipment (for example, computers and other digital devices) or to pay for or reimburse employees for costs associated with remote working (for example, internet and electricity costs)?

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Ireland

Ireland

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Unless provided for in an employment contract, there is no mandatory obligation on an employer to provide particular work equipment (save as part of its ongoing health and safety obligations), to pay a working-from-home allowance or to reimburse employees for costs associated with remote working.

The Irish tax authorities permit an employer to pay an allowance of up to €3.20 per working day tax-free to employees who are working from home to cover expenses such as heat, electricity and broadband. Any amount paid over and above this permitted limit of €3.20 is fully taxable as income. Here no allowance is paid, an employee may recover up to 30% of the cost of their broadband, heat and electricity costs directly from Revenue, the Irish taxation agency. However, only costs that are attributable to working days are recoverable.

Equipment that is provided by an employer to enable an employee to carry out his or her work (eg, laptop or monitor), and which is used by the employee primarily for work purposes, is not taxable as a benefit-in-kind. Vouched expenses that are incurred wholly and exclusively in the course of an employee’s duties are not generally subject to tax, but this exemption is applied on an extremely limited basis.

Last updated on 16/08/2022

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United States

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There is a patchwork of various state laws, either by judicial decision or statute, affecting expense reimbursement, particularly in instances involving mandatory remote work as opposed to remote work requested by the employee. Ascertaining expense reimbursement obligations is one of the most challenging aspects of implementing a compliant teleworking arrangement. Some states do not require reimbursement of work equipment, internet, etc, while others, such as California, do require reimbursement of “all necessary expenditures.”

Up-to-date information on the USA’s response to the pandemic, including State-level news and developments, can be found at Littler’s covid hub here.

Last updated on 21/09/2021

05. What potential issues and risks arise for employers in the context of cross-border remote-working arrangements?

05. What potential issues and risks arise for employers in the context of cross-border remote-working arrangements?

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Ireland

Ireland

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Employees working remotely outside Ireland may create expensive tax liabilities for themselves and their employers. It’s important to be aware of these before any long-term decisions are made.

The foreign country in which the employee is working may seek to tax some or all of that employee’s income from the employment. This is based either on the fact that a substantial number of days have been worked in that other country or in some cases on the basis that the employee has become a tax resident there under local law. Further, social security liability may accrue (which is generally assessed separately from income tax).

The main concerns for employers will be whether there is an obligation to operate local payroll withholding and whether local social security rules add significantly to the wage bill. The rules vary widely between countries and, unfortunately, there is no “one size fits all” approach to managing this issue across multiple jurisdictions.

Employers will also need to consider two corporate tax risks. First, an employee working abroad may in some circumstances constitute a permanent establishment of the employer in that other country, exposing part of its profit to corporate taxes there. Second, if an Irish company has directors based abroad, there is a risk of the company also acquiring corporate residence in another country.

Last updated on 21/09/2021

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United States

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Employees who cross state borders trigger a host of risks for their employer. The obligations of the jurisdiction where the work is performed will generally prevail (depending upon duration).  For example, state law, and even municipal law, control employers’ leave obligations (such as time off to vote, paid family leave, or paid sick leave).  With paid sick leave, this can become very complicated, as each law has different tracking, recordkeeping and accrual requirements. In addition, state withholdings and income tax, as well as insurance (workers compensation), must be considered.  Local ordinances often also control wage-and-hour issues such as how and when an employee must be paid, pay-statement requirements, whether an exemption applies or overtime must be paid, and other nuanced areas such as required employer policies, or notices relating to wages or unemployment insurance.

Up-to-date information on the USA’s response to the pandemic, including State-level news and developments, can be found at Littler’s covid hub here.

Last updated on 21/09/2021

06. Do employers have any scope to reduce the salaries and/or benefits of employees who work remotely?

06. Do employers have any scope to reduce the salaries and/or benefits of employees who work remotely?

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Ireland

Ireland

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Any unilateral reduction of salary or benefits by an employer without the consent of an employee can be challenged by way of a breach of contract claim, an unlawful deduction of wages claim, or a claim of constructive dismissal on the part of an employee. However, such a reduction could be agreed upon between the parties as part of an agreement, for example, to permit the employee to work remotely permanently.

Last updated on 21/09/2021

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United States

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Most jurisdictions in the US have at-will employment, so that with appropriate advance notice, salaries and benefits of at-will employees can be reduced without issue (ie, assuming no contract and the pay does not fall below the threshold for minimum wage or to maintain any particular exemption).  However, as with any workplace policy, the law mandates that selection for wage reduction be without regard to protected status such as race, age or disability. Thus, there may be an exposure to risk of claims to the extent that those who work remotely are seeking an accommodation or there is a potential for disparate impact.  Thus, employers should ensure that there is no "disparate impact" on any protected status that is required to work remotely.

Up-to-date information on the USA’s response to the pandemic, including State-level news and developments, can be found at Littler’s covid hub here.

Last updated on 21/09/2021

08. Can employers require or mandate that their workers receive a covid-19 vaccination? If so, what options does an employer have in the event an employee refuses to receive a covid-19 vaccination?

08. Can employers require or mandate that their workers receive a covid-19 vaccination? If so, what options does an employer have in the event an employee refuses to receive a covid-19 vaccination?

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Ireland

Ireland

  • at Littler

Realistically, no. There is no specific prohibition on employer-mandated vaccination in Ireland, but it will be difficult for employers to justify making vaccination mandatory under existing Irish employment law principles. Employers can, however, encourage employees to get the vaccine.

Employer-mandated vaccination presents several significant risks to employers: breaching the implied term of trust and confidence in employment contracts, giving rise to constructive dismissal claims; legal arguments that the requirement is an unconstitutional encroachment upon an employee’s private life; data protection issues; and discrimination risks.

Current government guidance, as set out in the Transitional Protocol is that the decision to get a vaccination is voluntary and that workers should therefore make their own decisions in this regard.

Last updated on 16/08/2022

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United States

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Federal anti-discrimination laws don't prohibit employers from requiring all employees who physically enter the workplace to be vaccinated for covid-19, accommodations must be made for those with religious objections or a disability.  Another option is to consider having employees show vaccination proof or submit to weekly covid-19 testing, wear masks, and keep physically distant from other workers and visitors.  Employers can also encourage and incentivise employees to get vaccinated by offering prizes, developing vaccination education campaigns, offering vaccinations on-site, covering any costs that might be associated with getting the vaccine, or providing paid time off for employees to get the vaccine and recover from any potential side effects. However, state lawmakers have introduced dozens of legislative proposals to make it harder for employers to require that employees get a covid-19 vaccine.

Up-to-date information on the USA’s response to the pandemic, including State-level news and developments, can be found at Littler’s covid hub here.

Last updated on 21/09/2021

09. What are the risks to an employer making entry to the workplace conditional on an individual worker having received a covid-19 vaccination?

09. What are the risks to an employer making entry to the workplace conditional on an individual worker having received a covid-19 vaccination?

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Ireland

Ireland

  • at Littler

Where employers can objectively justify restricting access on that basis (e.g. to maintain a safe working environment), the risk of such a restriction being successfully challenged is limited. However, the processing of this data may be problematic from a data protection perspective.

In any event, it does not confer any particular advantage to adopt this approach given that the current official guidance is that employees continue to follow best practice guidance, such as, following the public health advice regarding self-isolation and staying away from the workplace when displaying any symptoms of Covid-19, irrespective of an employee’s vaccination status.

Last updated on 16/08/2022

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United States

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While federal anti-discrimination laws don't prohibit employers from requiring all employees who physically enter the workplace to be vaccinated for covid-19, accommodations must be made for those with religious objections or a disability through alternative measures. Those can include getting tested weekly or working remotely.  In addition, state law is rapidly evolving in this area and we have seen a steady increase in worker lawsuits that are filed on the basis that treating unvaccinated people differently is discriminatory or unlawful. 

Up-to-date information on the USA’s response to the pandemic, including State-level news and developments, can be found at Littler’s covid hub here.

Last updated on 21/09/2021

10. Are there some workplaces or specific industries or sectors in which the government has required that employers make access to the workplace conditional on individuals having received a Covid-19 vaccination?

10. Are there some workplaces or specific industries or sectors in which the government has required that employers make access to the workplace conditional on individuals having received a Covid-19 vaccination?

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Ireland

Ireland

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No.  However, guidance issued by the Data Protection Commissioner (see here) provides that vaccination may be considered a necessary safety measure in certain circumstances, including the provision of healthcare services.  The HSE (the largest employer of healthcare workers in Ireland) has been permitted to seek information about employee’s vaccination status to assess any potential risk to patients and other employees.

Last updated on 16/08/2022

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United States

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Yes, this includes the healthcare industry, as well as some federal and municipal agencies.

Up-to-date information on the USA’s response to the pandemic, including State-level news and developments, can be found at Littler’s covid hub here.

Last updated on 21/09/2021

11. What are the key privacy considerations employers face in relation to ascertaining and processing employee medical and vaccination information?

11. What are the key privacy considerations employers face in relation to ascertaining and processing employee medical and vaccination information?

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Ireland

Ireland

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Information about a person’s vaccination status is special category personal data for the purposes of the GDPR. It represents part of their personal health record and is afforded additional protections under data protection law.

The Data Protection Commissioner has issued guidance stating that the processing of information about an employee’s vaccination status is unlikely to be necessary or proportionate in most employment situations (see here), except potentially in industries which have a very obvious, urgent and direct safety need (such as the provision of frontline healthcare services) or the Irish government introduces new measures requiring employers to process this data.

Last updated on 21/09/2021

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United States

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With limited exceptions, the Americans with Disabilities Act requires employers to keep confidential any medical information they learn about any applicant or employee. Medical information includes not only a diagnosis or treatment, but also the fact that an individual has requested or is receiving a reasonable accommodation. In addition, employers must maintain reasonable security measures to protect sensitive personally identifying information.  Specific data privacy rules vary state by state.

Up-to-date information on the USA’s response to the pandemic, including State-level news and developments, can be found at Littler’s covid hub here.

Last updated on 21/09/2021

12. What are the key health and safety considerations for employers in respect of remote workers?

12. What are the key health and safety considerations for employers in respect of remote workers?

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Ireland

Ireland

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Employers have an ongoing legal duty to maintain a safe working place and environment. Responsibility for health and safety at work rests with the employer, whether or not that work is being done at the worker’s home.

Employers need to consult with their employees to assure themselves:

  • that the employee is aware of any specific risks regarding working from home
  • that the work activity and the temporary workspace are suitable
  • that they provide suitable equipment to enable the work to be done
  • that there is a pre-arranged means of contact.

The Health and Safety Authority has produced helpful guidance and information on the health and safety issues relating to remote working, which is available here.

Last updated on 16/08/2022

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United States

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The OSHA governs the relationship between employers and employees with respect to workplace health and safety, and provides employer mandates regarding possible hazards in the traditional workplace. The key issues in work from home safety revolves around ergonomics. But the law recognises that employers have limited direction and control over the employee’s residence or other remote locations such as coffee shops, public libraries and so forth.  Nevertheless, employers have in many instances required employees to commit to keeping a safe workplace in their home and wherever they may work.

Up-to-date information on the USA’s response to the pandemic, including State-level news and developments, can be found at Littler’s covid hub here.

Last updated on 21/09/2021

13. How has the pandemic impacted employers’ obligations vis-à-vis worker health and safety beyond the physical workplace?

13. How has the pandemic impacted employers’ obligations vis-à-vis worker health and safety beyond the physical workplace?

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Ireland

Ireland

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The pandemic has not directly impacted employers’ obligations beyond the physical workplace from a health and safety perspective, as the legal duties and responsibilities that apply to employers predate the pandemic. The difference is that these issues have assumed a higher level of attention due to the wholesale adoption of remote working as a result of the pandemic.

Last updated on 21/09/2021

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United States

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With covid-19, the focus has shifted from workplace injury to workplace illness. Thus, the obligations have been expanded in that employers have had to think about exposures both inside and outside the workplace, and establishing safety protocols to help prevent employees from bringing the hazard into the workplace. 

Up-to-date information on the USA’s response to the pandemic, including State-level news and developments, can be found at Littler’s covid hub here.

Last updated on 21/09/2021

14. Do employer health and safety obligations differ between mobile workers and workers based primarily at home?

14. Do employer health and safety obligations differ between mobile workers and workers based primarily at home?

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Ireland

Ireland

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No, except for particular categories of mobile workers (for example long-distance drivers) who have the benefit of specific protections when it comes to working hours and rest breaks.

Last updated on 21/09/2021

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United States

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Yes.  Employees who as part of their job travel, visit customers and clients, and go from place to place, may be exposed to health and safety conditions that are beyond their employer’s control.  Nevertheless, employers need to take reasonable steps to keep their employees safe, even when they are outside the brick-and-mortar workplace.  The employer’s obligations to ensure their workers’ safety follows them as they travel for work, and, to the extent feasible, employers need to anticipate and mitigate against potential risks. On the other hand, employees who work from home are less likely to be exposed to these kinds of hazards, and the employer’s responsibility for the safety of employees who work from home is far less than for mobile workers or, of course, on-site workers. 

Up-to-date information on the USA’s response to the pandemic, including State-level news and developments, can be found at Littler’s covid hub here.

Last updated on 21/09/2021

15. To what extent are employers responsible for the mental health and wellbeing of workers who are working remotely?

15. To what extent are employers responsible for the mental health and wellbeing of workers who are working remotely?

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Ireland

Ireland

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When it comes to protecting the mental health and wellbeing of workers, employers owe the same duties to employees who are working remotely as those who are not.  Employers have a duty to maintain a safe working environment, both in the workplace and when working remotely. 

Last updated on 21/09/2021

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United States

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This is not an area that has been a priority in the United States, particularly if the employees are remote. However, this will likely be a developing area in the future that employers will have to consider in light of the changes being brought about by the pandemic.

Up-to-date information on the USA’s response to the pandemic, including State-level news and developments, can be found at Littler’s covid hub here.

Last updated on 21/09/2021

17. To what extent have employers been able to make changes to their organisations during the pandemic, including by making redundancies and/or reducing wages and employee benefits?

17. To what extent have employers been able to make changes to their organisations during the pandemic, including by making redundancies and/or reducing wages and employee benefits?

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Ireland

Ireland

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There has been no change to underlying employment legislation or rights, save for the suspension of the right of an employee who has been temporarily laid off for more than four weeks to claim an entitlement to a redundancy payment. This suspension, introduced as part of a suite of emergency measures at the outset of the pandemic, has now come to an end.

Any unilateral reduction of salary or benefits by an employer without the consent of an employee can be challenged by way of a breach of contract claim, an unlawful deduction of wages claim, or a claim of constructive dismissal on the part of an employee.

Last updated on 18/11/2021

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United States

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The pandemic has caused many companies to have to re-evaluate employee salaries and wages, and to make staffing changes. Where required by collective-bargaining agreements, these changes have resulted in bargaining with unions.

Up-to-date information on the USA’s response to the pandemic, including State-level news and developments, can be found at Littler’s covid hub here.

Last updated on 21/09/2021

18. What actions, if any, have unions or other worker associations taken to protect the entitlements and rights of remote workers?

18. What actions, if any, have unions or other worker associations taken to protect the entitlements and rights of remote workers?

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Ireland

Ireland

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No specific, coordinated actions have been taken other than normal day-to-day activities. The government’s Transitional Protocol which deals with the steps that employers must take to facilitate the reopening of workplaces, provides for the appointment of a Lead Worker Representative, whose role is to work together with their employer to assist in the implementation of and monitor adherence to public health measures to prevent the spread of covid-19 in their workplace. The Lead Worker Representative does not need to be a member of a trade union or any other worker association to carry out the role.

Last updated on 16/08/2022

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United States

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Unions are criticising company responses (especially the lack of paid leave, sufficient staffing, and a process to address employee safety concerns) in recent organising efforts. The best thing non-union employers can do to avoid union drives of this nature is to be transparent. Employers should develop and communicate a covid-19 response that is compliant with state or federal mandates and “best practice” recommendations, be as flexible as is reasonably possible in balancing the interests of employees and the business, and regularly update employees.

Up-to-date information on the USA’s response to the pandemic, including State-level news and developments, can be found at Littler’s covid hub here.

Last updated on 21/09/2021

19. Are employers required to consult with, or otherwise involve, the relevant union when introducing a remote-working arrangement? If so, how much influence does the union and/or works council have to alter the working arrangement (for example, to ensure workers’ health and safety is protected during any period of remote work)?

19. Are employers required to consult with, or otherwise involve, the relevant union when introducing a remote-working arrangement? If so, how much influence does the union and/or works council have to alter the working arrangement (for example, to ensure workers’ health and safety is protected during any period of remote work)?

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Ireland

Ireland

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No, unless there is a collective bargaining agreement in place that imposes such a requirement. Ireland operates a voluntarist approach to trade union recognition, which means that there is no mandatory recognition of trade unions, and so they have limited (if any) influence in non-unionised workplaces.

Last updated on 21/09/2021

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United States

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Unionised employers may unilaterally implement a policy requiring employees to work from home if the applicable collective bargaining agreement contains language granting the employer the right to implement such a requirement. Unilateral action also would be permissible if a local, state or federal law mandates working remotely for certain classifications for employees. Even in that case, however, the employer would still have an obligation to bargain over any discretionary aspects of the policy, such as:

  • classes of employees subject to remote work (unless specified by the order);
  • frequency and timing;
  • consequences of an employee’s refusal; and
  • where the remote work will be performed.

Other provisions in a collective bargaining agreement may cede control over the situation to the employer. For example, the CBA may include a “management-rights provision” which permits the employer to operate and manage the workplace, require standards of performance, implement improved operational methods and procedures, or promulgate rules, regulations and personnel policies.  Even if the clause does not explicitly address the issue of working from home, it may be argued that the union has waived its right to bargain over the matter. 

Employers with union-represented employees need to carefully review existing collective-bargaining agreements to determine whether there is sufficient management rights language that would permit an employer to mandate working from home as a condition of employment.

Furthermore, to the extent an employer seeks to avoid a bargaining obligation by claiming that working from home is consistent with a local, state, or federal law or regulation, it will need to show that it is actually mandated by the law to require this.

Up-to-date information on the USA’s response to the pandemic, including State-level news and developments, can be found at Littler’s covid hub here.

Last updated on 21/09/2021