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Can I still work from home or will it cost me?

Published 17 August 2021

Working from home remains a much talked about issue and how the arrangement may work in future remains to be seen. 

The pandemic meant those of us who could work while based at home had no choice but to do so. 

It has become a way of working many employees have grown accustomed to, and now it appears may be rather reluctant to give up. 

Despite workplaces reopening following the lifting of lockdown restrictions, there has not been a rush of workers keen to return to the office.

And it seems unlikely that there will be a scramble of employees eager to be back sitting at their desks in Covid-secure workplaces. 

A YouGov poll found that most British workers (57 per cent) want to be able to work from home after the pandemic https://yougov.co.uk/topics/economy/articles-reports/2021/04/13/one-five-want-work-home-full-time-after-pandemic 

That figure is made up of 37 per cent who say they want to work from home some of the time, and 20 per cent who said they want to work from home full time. 

If employees wish to continue working from home in the future there have been hints that to do so could come at a cost. 

US-based workers at technology giant Google may have to take a pay cut if they wish to continue to work from home permanently https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-58171716. At present there are no plans to implement the policy for staff in the UK 

At one stage it was suggested by a government minister that civil servants should have their pay docked if they refuse to return to the office after working from home for so long during the pandemic. 

However the Government is said to have stressed it would follow a “cautious” approach to civil servants returning to their offices, with departments able to be flexible in how the process is managed https://www.standard.co.uk/news/uk/working-from-home-covid-pandemic-civil-servants-b949744.html 

Enjoying the comforts of home while working is said to have some disadvantages. You have to motivate and organise yourself because no one is going to pop by your home office and offer words of encouragement, and it is much easier to get distracted. 

And now working from home is said to have created an ‘epidemic of hidden overtime’, with home-based employees working longer than a standard working week

Research has revealed workers find it difficult to ‘switch off’ and so continue to work throughout the evening and weekend, with women working harder than men https://autonomy.work/portfolio/righttodisconnect/ 

During the pandemic government advice was those who could work from home should do so. That advice appeared to change prior to lockdown restrictions being lifted. 

The chancellor Rishi Sunak is said to have encouraged employees to return to workplaces https://news.sky.com/story/reopen-offices-after-lockdown-ends-or-your-staff-may-quit-rishi-sunak-warns-british-businesses-12256912 

There will of course be employees who wish to make working from home a long-term arrangement, and many will have a legal right to request it. 

Workers with more than 26 weeks’ service can request flexible working, which can include working from home https://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2014/1398/made 

Any such request should be discussed with the employee and be considered in a ‘reasonable manner.’ 

Employers can reject any flexible working request application for any of the following reasons: 

  • Extra costs that will damage the business 
  • The work cannot be reorganised among other staff 
  • People cannot be recruited to do the work 
  • Flexible working will affect quality and performance 
  • The business will not be able to meet customer demand 
  • There is a lack of work to do during the proposed working times 
  • The business is planning changes to the workforce 

The ACAS Code of Practice on flexible working requests provides a comprehensive guide on making and responding to flexible working requests https://www.acas.org.uk/acas-code-of-practice-on-flexible-working-requests 

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