Working from home brings many economic and environmental benefits, but also raises issues of data protection, workers footing the bill for electronic and communications equipment, and continued poor broadband coverage.
This is the view of Sinn Féin Galway East representative, Louis O'Hara, who secured 16.7 per cent of first preference votes at the February General Election, and who lasted until the eighth and final count.
Mr O'Hara said the situation demands the Government tackle the issues raised by working at home, by drafting and enacting new legislation.
Positive effects of working from home
Mr O'Hara said the "one positive" of the Covid-19 pandemic is how it has shown that "a significant number of workers to work just as effectively from home".
He said the benefits of this are shown in less time is commuting to and from work, giving workers more time to spend with their families; reducing traffic and emissions; and it makes rural areas "more viable" for people to live in, removing "the need for workers to pay for expensive accommodation in cities". This has a beneficial knock-on effect on people's finances.
"For these reasons working from home should be encouraged," he said, "and workers who have been able to work effectively from home during this crisis should be allowed to continue to do so in the future."
Negative aspects require legislation
However, he acknowledged that working from home does not suit everybody, and "no worker should be forced to work from home" by their employer.
"Many people enjoy the social aspect of working alongside others, find it easier to work outside of the home, or simply enjoy getting out of the house," he said. "The decision must be left to workers themselves, and it is particularly important that workers are not forced to work from home if it could result in social isolation or exclusion from a unionised workplace."
'Regional disparities in broadband coverage has always been an important issue, but the current crisis has placed a greater impetus on this'
Mr O'Hara feels this is an issue which requires legislation. He said the legislation also needs to set out a right to disconnect. "It is vital for people’s health and well-being to normally separate work and home life, especially when working from home," he said.
Other areas the legislation would need to cover are concerns about data protection, as well as workers having had to pay the bill for equipment such as laptops and printers, which they use for work, resulting in increased electricity and heating costs. "Having to pay for these additional costs is grossly unfair and the legislation must prevent this," he said.
He also raises the issue of weak broadband in rural areas, which makes working from home difficult for some. "Improvements to rural broadband access must also be prioritised as a matter of urgency," he said. "Regional disparities in broadband coverage has always been an important issue, but the current crisis has placed a greater impetus on this."