Government says public services will not be affected by more permanent remote working

Public service delivery will not be negatively affected by allowing civil servants to work remotely, the government has said.

The Blended Working Framework published by Michael McGrath, the Minister for Public Expenditure, will allow civil servants to work at least one day a week remotely on a permanent basis.

Mr McGrath said the experience of the Covid-19 pandemic “in the round” of staff working from home was positive, despite criticism of delays in services like the passport office.

“We have been extremely impressed with the commitment of our officials. They maintained the difficult and demanding circumstances of an already high quality service to the general public,” he said.

Most, but not all, public service workers will be able to request remote work arrangements and request a review if their request is denied.

The program will not be open to workers who have “public facing” roles and access to remote work will not be an automatic right. This is regardless of any prior remote work arrangement during the pandemic, which was done essentially on an emergency basis.

Michael McGrath acknowledged that there were “ongoing challenges” at the Passport Office. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins

The Government indicates that public service employers are encouraged to support and facilitate access to mixed work wherever possible.

The framework covers 40 civil service organizations and approximately 40,000 workers.

It states that in general, no employee should work 100% remotely.

It is hoped that the plan will be rolled out by the middle of the year and will be used as a model for the entire public service.

Fórsa, the largest union in the public sector, participated in the framework negotiations. She welcomed this plan and called for it to be rapidly rolled out across the civil and civil service.

“As the largest employer in the state, the public service must take a leadership role in integrating remote and blended work into post-Covid work life,” said Derek Mullen, division chief of the civil service of Fórsa.

Regarding the passport office, Mr McGrath acknowledged “there are ongoing challenges there”, but said the government had very significantly increased the resources available to the passport office and the volume of passports issued had increased significantly.

“It’s a system that’s under pressure so we all need to make sure we do the simple things right and check our passports early this year,” he said.