Working from home – a requirement in the future?
Trade Unions have suggested that the UK should seek to amend the Working Time Regulations 1998 to include work performed from home. Currently, working from home voluntarily is not normally considered ‘working time’ under the regulations.
But employers are likely to resist the unqualified right for employees to work from home and any legislation change would have to include flexibility for employers (such as a trial period or an opt-out on specified notice).
There would also be practical circumstances in which employers would have to be entitled to deny the right to work from home, such as client demand or as a capability or disciplinary measure in the event that an employee’s performance were to deteriorate while working from home.
If the homeworking argument is to play out, it is worthwhile considering the advantages and disadvantages of formalising home working arrangements:
- reduced overhead costs (if there is sufficient long-term take up);
- increased productivity (although some businesses may argue the opposite, depending on the culture within the business and individual attitudes);
- environmental benefits (such as reduced commuter traffic);
- flexible meeting venues for staff and clients.
- poor working conditions, especially in shared households;
- staff feeling isolated (recently exacerbated by social distancing during lockdown);
- increased difficulties in separating work and home life;
- loss of managerial control and impact on work culture;
- decreased productivity; and
- potential confidentiality/data security issues.
The lockdown period will inevitably have taught many employers that they can successfully run their businesses from home. In practice, however, employers will want to retain an element of flexibility. Considering what has worked well and what difficulties have arisen as a result of forced home working, will undoubtedly assist in developing longer term policies in the future.