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Suzanne Townley

News Editor, Solicitors Journal

Eversheds survey reveals over half of Irish employers struggle to get staff back to the office

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Eversheds survey reveals over half of Irish employers struggle to get staff back to the office

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'Recruitment of top talent has never been more difficult'

A recent survey conducted by Eversheds Sutherland has revealed over 50 per cent of HR and employment professionals in Ireland have experienced small pockets of resistance from employees when trying to get them back to the office.

According to the survey, almost all companies (97 per cent) have adopted a hybrid workplace. HR and employment professionals surveyed said the biggest challenges faced by organisations are retention (28 per cent), higher salary requests (28 per cent), and recruitment difficulties (25 per cent). Reassuringly, 41 per cent said they do not think their organisation may be forced to implement redundancies in the next 12 months. However, 27 per cent said they may be.

Areas of day-to-day employment law that caused the most concerns for HR and employment executives were poor performance reviews (61 per cent), illness absences (47 per cent), and grievances (44 per cent).

Other key findings were:

  • 89 per cent pay employees on sick leave;
  • 50 per cent have a formal remote/flexible working policy;
  • 39 per cent have flexible/remote working with no policy in place;
  • 51 per cent said their employees typically work from the office one to two days per week;
  • 48 per cent said employees typically work from the office three days per week;
  • 77 per cent have restrictions set on where employees can work – 8 per cent can work within a set radius of the office, over a third (36 per cent) can only work within Ireland and 33 per cent can only work in approved jurisdictions.

Joanne Hyde and Julie Galbraith, employment partners at Eversheds Sutherland LLP, said: “Every day we support employers in Ireland ranging from the US multinationals to smaller Irish businesses servicing Irish consumers.

“Given the recent tech redundancies, it would be easy to think that redundancy is the biggest issue among HR and employment professionals. However, what is clear from the survey is that HR and employment professionals are dealing with a significant change to the balance of power that has been mounting over the last two years, where issues such as the right to request remote working, work-life balance and even whistleblowing are now top of minds for Irish employers”.

They added: “Employees in Ireland have benefited from this change to the balance of power. Recruitment of top talent has never been more difficult; employees have been able to command higher salaries and influence where and when they will work. This has been the longest period of employee power that we have experienced in recent years as specialist employment solicitors. And, when the balance of power begins to move back to the employer, this will have a knock-on impact on the employment market in Ireland, particularly on employment legislation coming down the track.

“For example, the Government is currently re-drafting the Right to Request Remote Working Bill 2022. Initially, it gave employers 13 reasons to prevent remote working. This was felt by general society to be too pro-employer but that was six months ago when employees were able to make more demands. As the recruitment challenges ease, employers are more likely to require employees to return to the office as they will be less afraid of employees leaving, and this may alleviate some of the resistance employers are feeling when it comes to getting employees to work from the office. Equally, the Right to Request Flexible Working Bill 2022 may have limited impact when enacted if employees are afraid to be seen working from home too often.” 

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