The Government's approach to remote and hybrid working has been criticised by the president of Fórsa, Ireland's largest public sector union.

Addressing delegates at the opening of the union's national conference in Killarney, Michael Smyth said legislation drafted in January effectively gave employers a right to refuse remote work, rather than giving workers a right to request it.

"The long list of 'reasons to refuse’ in the draft law revealed a Government prepared to pander to every employer sensitivity and stereotype, no matter how baseless, falling back on old and outmoded ways of thinking about the relationship between employers and workers," Mr Smyth said.

Unions have said that the 'Right to Request Remote Working Bill' is stacked in favour of the employer when it comes to grounds for refusal and grounds for appeal.

Employers have questioned the need for the legislation and have warned that it may result in additional administrative burdens for businesses.

Assistant Secretary of the Department of Enterprise, Dermot Mulligan, appeared before the Oireachtas Enterprise Committee today.

He said that the Government would have a "listening ear" and is open to changing the draft remote working legislation.

The department is looking at strengthening the rights of appeal and may reduce the number of grounds under which an application can be refused.

In his address to delegates this evening, Fórsa president Michael Smyth also made reference to the need for pay rises to help offset increases in the cost of living.

"Inflation has put sudden and sustained pressure on workers' incomes, and the trade union movement has had to respond quickly and decisively," Mr Smyth said.

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions and Government officials held exploratory talks last week on public sector pay.

The Workplace Relations Commission has been contacted to facilitate further talks in the coming weeks.

Around 700 delegates are attending the Fórsa conference and will debate motions on a variety of topics including pay, remote working, climate change, taxation, pensions and sick leave.