Time to get ambitious about the potential of remote work – Currie

-   Emer Currie

The €8m investment in digital hubs contained in Budget 2021 is very welcome and shows more than ever the need for an ambitious remote working strategy for communities and companies, a Fine Gael Senator has said.

Senator Emer Currie, Fine Gael’s Seanad Spokesperson on for Work/Life Balance and Employment Affairs, said “This Government has shown through the Programme for Government, the recent consultation on remote working and yesterday’s budget with €8 million for digital hubs, that it is committed to the concept of remote work.

“The promotion of remote and flexible working was a key commitment from Fine Gael before the last election and so I am pleased to see this follow up from the new Government.

“Under the Town and Village Renewal Scheme, there will be a €5 million investment in facilities for digital hubs and broadband connection points across rural Ireland, aimed at enhancing remote working capability and remote access for students. €3 million is also being allocated for a network of Digital Hubs to help SMEs modernise and stay connected.

“I was also pleased to see that €30 million is being ringfenced for a call to regional enterprise centres for initiatives to create jobs in every region in the country.

“We now need to see a joined-up strategy from companies to communities if we want long-term choice and change. We cannot miss this opportunity regenerate and reorganise our towns and villages.

“It’s not just about funding hubs but where we build them and what we build around them. Hubs should foster a community of remote workers similar to workplaces, situated in village and town location making use of vacant premises, connected by cycleways and sustainable transport and ideally co-located with community childcare. They can breathe new life and economic opportunities into local urban centres.

“Social enterprise ‘Grow Remote’ and I are partnering up to create a Remote Taskforce for employers to address the current barriers or issues around remote work, like health and safety questions, new management styles or social isolation. It would be great if government policy could be influenced by our work.

“My colleague, Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe, TD, referenced the expansion of the e-working tax relief to include broadband. As part of the Interdepartmental group recommendations I would hope this tax relief could be changed to make it easier to apply and more beneficial for people who work from home,” Senator Currie concluded.

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