Eversheds Sutherland survey: Employees resisting calls to return to the office

Eversheds Sutherland survey: Employees resisting calls to return to the office

Over half of Irish employers are experiencing some resistance to getting employees to work from the office, according to a new survey.

With almost all companies (97 per cent) having adopted a hybrid workplace, over 50 per cent of HR and employment professionals say they are experiencing small pockets of resistance in getting their employees to work from their offices. That’s according to a recent HR and Employment survey from Eversheds Sutherland.

HR and employment professionals surveyed say the biggest challenges facing their organisations are retention (28 per cent), higher salary requests (28 per cent), and recruitment difficulties (25 per cent). Somewhat reassuringly, 41 per cent said they do not think their organisation may be forced to implement redundancies in the next 12 months but 27 per cent said they may be.

Also, the areas of day-to-day employment law causing the most concerns for HR and employment executives are poor performance reviews (61 per cent), illness absences (47 per cent), and grievances (44 per cent).

The survey findings were revealed at the law firm’s annual employment law evening one Wednesday, with over 50 attendees, which included a review of all the HR developments in 2022, a look at the year ahead, and an introduction to the Metaverse with Marie McGinley, partner and international head of technology at Eversheds Sutherland.

The other key findings are:

  • 89 per cent pay their employees if they are on sick leave
  • 50 per cent have a formal remote/flexible working policy in place whereas 39 per cent are flexible/remote working with no policy in place
  • 51 per cent say their employees typically work from the office 1 – 2 days per week; 48 per cent say their employees typically work from the office 3 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, partners, employment law 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.

“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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