The Government was fearful of the cost implications of sanctioning a €3.20 work-from-home allowance during the pandemic.
mails reveal some civil servants complained they were being hit with enormous mobile phone and broadband bills.
The Department of Public Expenditure had been contacted by the Revenue Commissioners asking whether employees could be reimbursed for costs incurred from having a home office.
"The type of expenses may include wi-fi, phonecalls, electricity, equipment costs [if equipment was purchased by them, accommodation etc]," a Revenue official said.
In emails discussing a response, Public Expenditure officials said it needed to be made clear there would be no standard allowance available for such costs. "Clearly, we won't be paying these in the crisis," said one civil servant in an email.
In a later email, the department said civil service staff should be reminded they were not authorised to incur any expenses without prior approval from their manager.
However, it said it was open for people to make a claim to Revenue at the end of the year for costs incurred in setting up a home office.
The Data Protection Commissioner also contacted the department saying it had been receiving a growing number of queries about extra costs and "limits on access" due to remote working.
The Central Bank also looked for clarity on payment of an allowance and also flexibility where parents were unable to work due to childcare arrangements.
Later emails reveal discussions were taking place over what would happen if employees had to buy specific equipment to allow them to work from home.
One senior official wrote: "We're clear that public service employers will not be paying the €3.20 daily allowance to staff.
"However, I think the question of reimbursing staff who make investments in equipment, have to use the data plan on their personal smartphone to carry out work, etc, is still open."
A colleague responded: "I think this is an issue we'll have to move carefully on given work from home arrangements are going to be the norm for the foreseeable."
A spokeswoman for the department said an FAQ had been published making clear a daily allowance would not be paid and how it was open for people to make claims to the Revenue.
"Any claim in this regard is solely a matter for the individual concerned," she said.
Meanwhile, unions have said workers should not be forced to carry the cost of working remotely for their employers.
The Irish Congress of Trade Unions called for the voluntary payment that employers can make to staff working from home to be made mandatory.
Congress also wants the Government to commit to a review of employment legislation to ensure protections are fit for purpose for remote working in the post-pandemic world.
Thousands of people have been forced to work from home since March due to the coronavirus pandemic. Some may not be able to return to their former workplace for months.
Revenue allows people working from home to be paid €3.20 per day in expenses by their employer, if duties are being performed within normal working hours.
That works out at €16 a week. Over a year, it works out at close to €800. However, it is paid at the discretion of the employer.
Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) social policy officer Laura Bambrick said working from home suits some people, but for other workers the mass home-working experiment has been fraught.
Higher utility and broadband costs are among the most common complaints reported to trade union reps, she said.
Dr Bambrick said: “Remote workers should not have to carry the cost of doing business, whether in the form of higher household bills or the daily desk charge at a digital hub.
“ICTU is calling for a review of the adequacy of the €3.20 tax-free daily expense allowance paid by employers to homeworkers, and for payment of this allowance to be made mandatory.”
More than 100,000 people already worked from home before the Covid-19 outbreak, but this number is thought to have spiralled since Covid-19 hit.
Employment legislation needs to be updated to protect remote workers, ICTU said.
Speaking ahead of the publication of the union’s guidance for workers working from home, Dr Bambrick said: “Workers’ hard-won rights must be preserved when working from home.”
She said protections need to keep pace with changes in ways of working, and gaps in law closed.
What is urgently needed is a more ambitious public consultation on remote working than that recently launched by the Department of Business, she added
“Many workers have expressed an interest to continue remote working.
“However, unlike workers across the EU, in the UK and Northern Ireland, Irish workers have no legal right to work flexibly, including working from home. Under current law remote working is solely at the discretion of the employer.”
Trade unions said that when implemented in the right way, flexible and remote working can really improve people’s working lives, make them happier and more productive.
ICTU said this is the reason it is calling for a change in the law to give every worker the legal right to request flexible working and for employers to be required to give the request serious consideration.
The union body said a statutory right to request flexible working would require bosses to deal with workers’ request in a reasonable and considered manner.
The working-from-home guide is at ictu.ie.