Remote and hybrid working options have the potential to “completely revive” rural Ireland, Fine Gael MEP for the Midlands North West, Colm Markey, has said.

The MEP sees high potential in derelict buildings such as old banks which can be turned into remote working hubs making towns and villages more attractive places to raise a family in.

Further benefits of remote work include lower emissions, more family time and a higher level of jobs in rural Ireland, according to the MEP.

Earlier this year the government announced €21.5 million in funding for 27 landmark regeneration projects in rural communities across the country, to transform derelict and historical buildings into modern-day hubs, enterprises, cultural and community facilities.

MEP Markey stated:

“We need to keep up the momentum and re-double our efforts to reverse rural decline. This is a once in a generation opportunity and we need to get it right.”

Markey further said he welcomes the government’s effort to sign the right to request remote working into law.

Right to request remote working

The Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Leo Varadkar, today (Tuesday, January 25) published details of a new law which will give employees the right to request remote working.

Under the new law, employees who have worked for their employer for at least six months, hold the right to request remote working.

Employers are legally required to return a decision in relation to a request from an employee within and no later than 12 weeks.

Requests can only be refused by employers who provide reasonable grounds which are set out in the legislation and in codes of practice that are currently developed, the Tánaiste announced.

In addition to the new right, investment in remote working hubs across the country and changes to the treatment of home working costs will be part of the 2022 budget.

Connected hubs

As part of the ‘Our Rural Future’ strategy, the government committed to the development of a national hubs network.

The Minister for Rural and Community Development, Heather Humphreys, said that there are 177 hubs nationwide that already use the platform which is expected to increase to 400 by the end of 2022.

Connected hubs offer private offices and meeting rooms, co-working and collaborative spaces, hot desks – for a day, a week or longer term – and online meeting technologies and spaces.

Minister Humphreys said working from a hub in a local town or village addresses and solves both issues of long commutes and a disrupted work-life balance.

“I welcome the legislation which the Tánaiste has brought forward today and I would encourage employers to look at utilising these hubs as a means to allow their staff to continue to work remotely into the future,” Humphreys concluded.