In Ireland, as elsewhere, interest in remote working was growing even before the COVID pandemic arrived, having the potential benefits of increased flexibility for individual workers and lower overheads for employers. However, it’s not quite as simple as “have laptop, will travel! ”
In this blog, we will be taking a look at the logistical, legal, and tax considerations involved in remote working, for employers and for their workers.
Health and safety
In view of the ongoing pandemic, COVID safety practices are at the forefront of peoples’ minds. Although at the time of writing, COVID-related restrictions are minimal, government guidelines and company policies in this area should of course be adhered to, whether in the home, in the office, or in a blended working situation, such as a remote working hub. However, there are also the more traditional health and safety concerns to be addressed and adapted to home-working and/or remote working.
Existing employer health and safety policies and procedures are likely to need some adaptation, and assessments of the alternate working environment may need to take place, with policies updated as necessary. Depending on the type of job being done, additional safety training may need to be provided. Both employer and employee should ensure the equipment being used is fit for purpose, there is appropriate insurance coverage, and that the worker is medically fit for the remote position.
There is also a two-way obligation to agree and maintain a suitable workflow arrangement. Employers should be able to count on their workers to fulfil their obligations, while ensuring that employees are able to disengage after normal working hours, and aren’t expected to be always accessible for work-related matters.
data protection and security
Home-working also raises various considerations regarding data security and cybersecurity, particularly where centralised systems and portals need to be accessed remotely.
Key areas to examine may include policies, procedures, and software use around protecting personal and sensitive data, GDPR compliance, and the security implications of employees using their own devices for work. Employers need to consider also the physical location of the remote worker; if workers are located overseas different data protection rules may apply.
Cyber security considerations may include whether and how to use encrypted devices, and the security of remote working software and products such as video-conferencing, workflow software, cloud-based storage.
tax and contracts
Employees from home in Ireland are generally taxed under the standard Irish individual tax regime.
Certain reliefs are available to compensate workers for expenses that they wouldn’t have accrued if working from an office, which can be claimed via the individual’s tax return.
There are two main ways in which a remote worker can be compensated for their expenses — either through a EUR3.20 tax-free payment per day of home working, or through a claim for Remote Working Relief.
Under Remote Working Relief, 10 percent of the heating and electricity costs can be claimed (pro-rated according to the number of days spent working from home). For the duration of the pandemic, 30 percent of broadband costs can also be claimed; the claimable amount can be apportioned accordingly, if the bill in question is shared.
In Budget 2022, the Government announced that it would be boosting these supports for remote workers, explaining that:
“In light of government policy to facilitate and support remote working, the current tax arrangements for working from home will be enhanced and formalised so that an income tax deduction amounting to 30 percent of the cost of vouched expenses for heat, electricity and broadband in respect of those days spent working from home can be claimed by taxpayers.”
Other ‘vouched expenses’ can sometimes be claimed by remote workers, where they are wholly and exclusively for work purposes. However, capital expenses such as a laptop and furniture purchases cannot be claimed.
A change in working arrangements may also require the creation of a new contract.
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