The Government has indicated that it is going to open a consultation on the right to work from home. A leading employment lawyer from Thames Valley law firm Boyes Turner has warned that a legal right to work from home could be a step too far, with negative consequences for business, employees and local communities.
“Many employers are considering a move to a hybrid model with some time being spent working from home, but to make it ‘illegal’ to require employees to attend a workplace, unless it is essential, seems a step too far,” says Barry Stanton, partner and head of employment at Boyes Turner.
“A legal right to work remotely is likely to damage the fabric of businesses, reduce cohesion and innovation. It could also lead to employees becoming more isolated and increase the risk of adverse mental health outcomes.”
The pandemic has transformed working lives for many over the past 15 months with millions working from home as workplaces were forced to close.
“Many employees believe they are more productive getting on with the job in hand with no interruptions. Working from home has made people’s lives easier and the evidence suggests that working hours have increased. However, there is already the right to request to work flexibly, although such requests can be refused on limited grounds.,” adds Barry Stanton.
“Giving employees the right to work remotely unless and employer can show that it is essential they attend the workplace would dramatically shift the goalposts in favour of employees. Whilst many want some flexibility there is a view that even with flexible working there will be a drift back in the coming years to more recognisable work patterns and a return to the workplace.”
A right to work from home could also have an impact on our communities. “Town and city centres have suffered terribly through the pandemic. If there is a move away from working in these areas for office workers the damage being done to shopping centres will accelerate. We could also expect to see a reduction in railway services with a reduction in demand with fewer workers commuting to work.”
Consistent with our policy when giving comment and advice on a non-specific basis, we cannot assume legal responsibility for the accuracy of any particular statement. In the case of specific problems we recommend that professional advice be sought.