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Dickson concerned Minister has no immediate plans to develop remote working strategy

We may see increased exploitation of employees and a decrease in the health and well-being of workers if the Economy Minister does not implement a remote working strategy, Alliance Economy spokesperson Stewart Dickson MLA has said.

Mr Dickson said such a development would ensure the benefits of remote working are maximised and current employment rights law in this area are fit for purpose. However, after the East Antrim MLA asked Economy Minister Diane Dodds her intentions, the Minister has now replied to state she has no immediate plans to do so. Mr Dickson said the current employment law framework was not sufficient.

“We will all be happy to see the back of COVID, however, the sudden disruption to our ways of working has unearthed some benefits, such as more agile working,” he said.

“But home working cannot go on indefinitely without any regulation for workers and employers. I have heard numerous stories about home-based employees feeling spied upon by their employers who are monitoring their keystrokes, whilst others feel wholly unsupported by employers who rarely check in and no longer take their supervisory duties seriously.

“Employers have a statutory duty to ensure employees are operating in safe working environments – however, over the past year we have seen many people are trying to work at poorly constructed work stations and are failing to switch off at the end of the day.

“I was hoping this was something that the Minister would be making moves to safeguard against but her response hasn’t filled me with confidence. If the Department for the Economy refuses to implement a strategy to - at the very least - provide guidance and support for workers and employers, I fear we will see increased employee exploitation, the emergence of unhealthy workplace practices and cultures, and a decrease in the health and wellbeing of workers.

“The Minister has a brief window to put the infrastructure in place for best practice remote working. I hope she has the foresight, and the ambition, to be proactive in this space.”