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The working from home dilemma…

Date Added 14.04.22

Can employees insist on working from home and how should employers handle these types of requests…

During the height of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, working from home had risen by around 37%. But, with coronavirus restrictions being lifted on 24th February 2022, there are now questions being raised by both employers and employees as to whether individuals have a legal right to work from home and how requests to work from home should be handled.

What are the current rules on working from home?

On 21st February 2022, the government introduced a new strategy to help England to begin ‘living with covid’ which lifted the guidance on working from home moving forwards.

Is there a legal right to work from home?

There is no legal right to work from home unless it has been outlined within an employee’s contract of employment, or if an employer has made a separate agreement to introduce home working permanently.

Making a request to work from home

Despite there being no legal right to work from home employees do have the legal right to make a flexible working request if they meet certain eligibility criteria, including having the requisite length of service. An employer can choose to either accept or reject this request but this is subject to the circumstances of the case.

How should employers deal with a flexible working request?

An employer is expected to comply with legislation and the ACAS Code of Practice when handling a flexible working request. If they fail to do so, it could give an employee a claim in the Employment Tribunal for up to 8 weeks’ pay and the Tribunal could order that the application is reconsidered.

As part of the process when considering a request, an employer should arrange a meeting to discuss the request and issue a decision within 3 months of receiving it. Any rejection must be compliant with the reasons prescribed under legislation, and an employer can’t simply reject a request because they aren’t willing to accommodate home working. An example of a valid reason could be the burden of additional costs.

What is likely to happen in the future?

As a result of the working arrangements during the pandemic, around 72% of the public stated that they would leave their job if they are dissatisfied with their employer’s policy on home working. This suggests that there is likely to be a rise in flexible working applications in the absence of employees having a legal right to work from home.

It also indicates that employers may need to shift their attitudes to home working in order to keep up with employees’ demands on their work flexibility expectations.

This has led to the trial of introducing the four day work week in order to mitigate this issue.

Introduction of the four day work week:

As detailed in our recent article: Four day working week trial to take place in the UK,  the UK has recently introduced a four day work week through a six-month trial period, with 30 participating companies. This is a way to gain some understanding of whether working four days a week for the same wage would increase or maintain productivity when working for 80% of the time.  By moving to a productivity focused approach, it may enable companies to reduce work hours and keep up with the changing work model demands as a result of the pandemic.

Should the trial in the UK be successful, then the public could be entitled to a four-day work week. This would meet the demand during the era of ‘the great resignation’ and lead to the retention of staff and also the attraction of new staff.

If you have a question or would like further information regarding the four day work week and how this may impact your business… Talk to Tollers on 01604 258558. Our Employment team is on hand to assist you with all you need to know. We’re here for you.

More information on the four-day work week pilot can be found here

 

 

 

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