05 Oct 2022

Cross-border workers cannot be left behind in Irish remote work laws

The Guest Column with Paul Quinn, co-chairperson of the Cross-Border Workers Coalition (CBWC)

Cross-border workers cannot be left behind in Irish remote work laws

The border at Bridgend is the main crossing point for Derry's cross-border workers.

Paul Quinn is the co-chairperson of the Cross-Border Workers Coalition (CBWC), an alliance of individual employees from Derry/Donegal representing employees who reside in the Republic of Ireland but are largely prohibited from remote working (or working from home) due to restrictive personal tax rules which impact cross-border workers who work in Northern Ireland on a daily basis.

Here, he gives the reason when he believes ,the opportunity is now right to make the legislative change for the benefit of thousands of cross border workers right across the ‘necklace’ region of the Republic of Ireland to allow them to work in the country that they reside without being exposed to a personal tax liability.

Be it the constant bad news, ever-changing restrictions, or even the inability to travel abroad, Covid-19 has given us very little to cheer about over the last two years.

Many of us will hope that 2022 will be the year we finally put the pandemic behind us and leave behind dreaded phrases like furlough and the ‘new normal’.

And yet, despite all the negativity of the last 24 months, we have seen real progress on one major issue: homeworking.

Working remotely has transformed my work-life balance, granting me more time with my family and less time commuting. According to WFH Research, working from home saves staff an average of 70 minutes a day. Half the time saved goes to working more, the other half to leisure, meaning that both employers and employees’ benefit.

Given these advantages, it is unsurprising that the Irish Government have moved to make remote work a permanent feature of our working lives.

The recently published Right to Request Remote Work Bill 2021 gives employees a formal right to request home-working and, if passed, will grant much-needed flexibility to workers across the Republic of Ireland. That is, if you don’t work in the North.
I live in Donegal and work in Derry. Like thousands of others, I deal with contrasting laws, frameworks, and rules daily.

But this goes beyond carrying euro and sterling. While our Republic of Ireland colleagues are soon to be granted a home-working right, we are facing a full-time office return. While they are given modern working practises, we are looking to the past.

Remote work is here to stay, but for many cross-border workers, home-working flexibility is not. Under current Trans Border Workers Relief legislation, cross-border workers, who live in the Republic of Ireland but work in Northern Ireland, can be financially penalised if they work-from-home.

SDLP leader and Foyle MP, Colum Eastwood, pictured when he met with Cross Border Workers Coalition over ‘double tax.’

Left unchanged, employers across this island may be forced to exclude border employees simply because of where they live. This simply does not work for the employees we represent.

As co-chair of the Cross Border Workers Coalition, we have been engaging with the Irish Government seeking permanent, pragmatic amendments to outdated ROI tax rules. While we have secured an extension to temporary Covid-19 support, this waiver on pre-pandemic rules could end overnight, posing disruption to the lives of thousands of cross-border workers.
And despite engagement with Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe TD and other Ministers, no concrete action has been undertaken.

Any strengthening of the right to remote work is to be welcomed. Now is the time for this home-working flexibility to be granted to employees regardless of where they live and work on this island. Now is the time for cross-border workers to be heard. Now is the time for action.

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