Stefania Chiorboli leads Global HR at Boundless. Passing through and leaving an impact in companies such as Automattic, Booking.com, and Status, she knows what it takes to make remote employees happy, engaged and productive. A remote worker for the past five years, she has learned from the best and shares her lessons on the blog.
Whether we call it remote working, work from anywhere, or more simply, work from home, the move away from the office as the primary place for labour is here to stay. For that reason, it’s more important than ever to focus on making it an effective and streamlined model of working.
We have written about some of the people management aspects of it before: the importance of keeping contact with employees, offering an abundance of support, and promoting proper disconnect. However, there is also the more operational side of things, especially when the workers are internationally remote: understanding and complying with local regulations, complying with Health & Safety rules from a distance, keeping track of all existing WFH tax breaks and allowances, and many others.
It’s those operational things that we devote our local work from home guides to. For this guide to Ireland, we have gathered all the rules and regulations employers and employees need to comply with, and compiled the latest tax breaks and allowances that are in place. (You can read about New Zealand here).
The work from home landscape in Ireland
Even before Covid-19, Ireland was on a path to becoming a more remote work-friendly location. It needed to as big cities are overpopulated and unaffordable. According to the latest Census, which took place in 2016, 18% of the working population, worked from home, mostly one or two days per week. Several things have been happening since to make the country better equipped for remote work.
For starters, over the last number of years, there has been an increase in co-working hubs in rural areas, which are currently at nearly 300 in number. Meanwhile, broadband, which has historically been a problem in remote areas, has been improving. Large scale stories of remote work success have surfaced such as Shopify Ireland, which has been fully remote since 2015. (We spoke to John Riordan at the start of the year, who is the engine behind the scale to nearly 400 employees.) Last and not least, there is Grow Remote, a grassroots organisation that started in 2018 as a WhatsApp group between remote people across Ireland, which has since grown to an organisation with over 60 chapters spread around the country, most of which operate monthly in-person events under normal circumstances.
As a result of all these things, the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation published a Remote Work in Ireland report in December 2019. It uncovered different remote working practices in Ireland, how often people practised them, and discovered some of the factors which determined whether people worked remotely or not.
Much has changed since it was published and follow up surveys have ensued. The most recent one from October 2020 found that 94% of respondents were in favour of continuing to work remotely. The majority of those, 54%, said they would like to work remotely several times a week, 27% said five days a week. The last number is double what it was in the original Remote Work in Ireland study.
Many initiatives have been put in place in the months since the pandemic, starting with several training programs:
- Grow Remote, in partnership with a few local organisations, launched two free courses – the Remote Work Ready course (our CEO, Dee Coakley teaches the managing teams workshop) and the Leading Remotely Course
- ‘Effective Management of Remote Workers’ online course aimed at both people working remotely or managing a remote team
- Effective remote working and leading and project managing remote teams courses offered by Cork Training Centre
- Three courses aimed at remote workers, line managers, and HR/L&D professionals
- Additional advice on managing remote working and maintaining employee motivation and engagement when working remotely
All these initiatives, alongside spectacular nature and an inherent knack for community and readiness to help out even from a distance, make Ireland a great place for remote work. Let’s look into what is required from employees and employers to make it work.
Work from home health and safety
The Health and Safety Authority (HSA) is the body responsible for health and safety in the workplace in Ireland. According to the HSA, employers have the same responsibility for the health & safety of employees who work from home. This includes psychosocial aspects of work, such as bullying and work-related stress. Their duties include:
- Providing guidance and good practice in setting up a workstation
- Organising an ergonomic assessment of the home workspace
- Taking care that employees receive the necessary training and rest breaks
- Treating everyone fairly and respectfully and allocating work equally
- Communicating regularly
- Assessing risks and implementing appropriate control measures
- Providing information, instruction, training and supervision regarding safety and health about working from home
- Giving regular updates to each employee
- Providing support to employees feeling work-related stress from the location of their work (COVID-19 related)
Employees, on the other hand, are also responsible for taking care of themselves. Their responsibilities include:
- Cooperating with their employer and following their instructions
- Protecting themselves during their work (taking care of any equipment provided and reporting any defects immediately to the employer)
- Reporting any injury arising from work activity to their employer immediately
- Following procedures that have been put in place by their employer
People working from home may feel reluctant to tell their employer that they are unwell. It is important to note that the same sick leave rules apply.
Employers have to carry out a risk assessment for the home office of employees, which includes all hazards and identify what steps they need to take to deal with them.
In a work from home context, some of the biggest risks are less to do with the setup and more to do with isolation, working longer hours, and blurring the lines between work and family life. Individually or in combination, these could result in employee burnout. Extending support to employees at all times during working hours is essential.
Employers should consider:
- Putting all employee contact details on file
- Arranging regular check-ins
- Providing emergency contact numbers
- Arranging remote IT support in the event of technical problems
- Providing guidelines on when an employee may need to contact the employer
- Setting the work schedule to include regular breaks and precise cut off times
- Giving employees regular feedback on their work
- Encouraging employees to stay in touch with colleagues
Employers should provide appropriate work from home equipment to employees. This includes laptop, mouse, monitor, keyboard and headset. In addition, employers are advised to take care of the home office furniture such as ergonomic desk and chair, and consider covering expenses for telephone, mobile, broadband, software and any other items necessary for doing the work. When these are predominantly used for professional purposes, they do not trigger benefit in kind taxation.
Sharing a Work from Home questionnaire with the employee is an excellent start before arranging to provide the above. Questions to ask include:
- Does the employee need a keyboard, mouse and second monitor?
- Is the workspace set up to allow viewing the monitor at eye level, without bending the neck?
- Does the employee have access to suitable accessories such as laptop stands?
- Does the employee take regular short breaks by standing up and walking around for one minute every 30 minutes?
- Does the workspace allow space in front of the keyboard for arm and hands support?
- Does the employee sit on a height-adjustable chair that includes backrest and support?
- Is there adequate lighting, ventilation and heating to allow comfortable working?
- Is the employee experiencing any musculoskeletal discomfort?
- Is there enough space to allow the employee to work without twisting, bending or sitting/standing awkwardly?
- Is there enough workspace to accommodate the equipment or other materials needed for the activity?
- Is the floor clear and dry, e.g., kept clear of electrical cables or anything else you could trip over?
- Are the electrical sockets, plugs, and cords in good condition with no exposed wiring or frayed cables?
Security of information
The Irish National Cyber Security Centre has released the Cyber Security Guidance on Working from Home, which provides information on how to avoid some of the most common data breaches to employees working from home. It identifies phishing, vishing, remote access threats and business email compromise as the key challenges when working remotely. The guidance contains advice on how employees working from home can maximise wi-fi security, good practices when using personal or work devices, and remote conferencing.
How work from home is treated in Ireland during Covid-19
Since Covid-19 changed the trajectory of remote working from something that some of the more progressive companies implemented, to a recommendation made out to even the most reluctant employers, the government has put in place new tax breaks and allowances and strengthened existing ones.
eWorking covered by employer
eWorking is a tax-relief initiative by the Irish government for employers with employees working from home on a part-time or full-time basis. Employers may pay up to €3.20 per employee, per day without deducting taxes (PAYE, PRSI, USC). Any amount over the €3.20 per day that is paid by the employer will be taxed. This tax relief is aimed at covering the additional costs of working from home, such as light and heat, incurred by employees. Employers must retain records of the payments.
Alternative tax deductions
When the employer does not contribute to the expenses that the employee has, the worker can claim a tax deduction for utility expenses such as heat and light. They are as follows:
- 10% of the cost of electricity and heat incurred, calculated based on the days worked at home during the year)
- 30% of the cost of broadband incurred, calculated based on the days worked at home during the year. This particular allowance will apply for the duration of the pandemic
- Other vouched expenses where they are “wholly, exclusively and necessarily” part of your work
We hope this guide to WFH in Ireland has helped you to understand the lay of the land and the things you will need to comply with if you have an Irish-based employee. Alongside work from home regulations in Ireland, you will also have to comply with all other employment laws, run local payroll and file taxes. Setting all that up and maintaining it may take upwards of six months and will require a lot of resources.
Alternatively, you can work with Boundless, to help you with all the work related to legal employment. We own and operate an Irish Professional Employer Organisation as part of our multi-country offering and enable you to offer the best possible employment experience to any worker. Through the Employer of Record model, we act as their legal employer and take care of the many obligations that bring equal, fair and secure employment to them and peace of mind to you. Learn more.
The making available of information to you on this site by Boundless shall not create a legal, confidential or other relationship between you and Boundless and does not constitute the provision of legal, tax, commercial or other professional advice by Boundless. You acknowledge and agree that any information on this site has not been prepared with your specific circumstances in mind, may not be suitable for use in your business, and does not constitute advice intended for reliance. You assume all risk and liability that may result from any such reliance on the information and you should seek independent advice from a lawyer or tax professional in the relevant jurisdiction(s) before doing so.