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Should Workers Have the Legal Right to Work From Home?

Should Workers Have the Legal Right to Work From Home?
04 August 2021
 

Would a potential law change making home working a default right increase employee wellbeing or stifle innovation?

The response to the government’s flexible working taskforce and the suggestion that working from home should be a legal right under UK legislation – unless the employer could show a good reason why someone should not – has received some criticism.

At present, UK law states that employees can only request to work flexibly after 26 weeks of employment, with a limit of one request per 12-months. 

The Flexible Working Task Force, which is co-chaired by the CIPD and Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, was set up to help increase the availability and uptake of flexible working across the economy. 

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and companies such as Lloyd's of London and Fidelity International don’t feel that a legal approach is the right option.

However, The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) is stressing the need for employers to make hybrid working a success, and supports the change.

 

“The news that the right to work from home could become law comes in clear recognition that workers value autonomy, trust and flexibility, but I would strongly caution employers and legislators against the 'false flexibility' of permanent, full-time remote working and the damage this could cause to employee wellbeing."

–Giles Fuchs

CEO, Office Space in Town

 

 

Mentoring Opportunities and Creative Buzz Will Suffer

 

Lord Bilimoria, President of the CBI, told The Guardian that, whilst the right to request home working should remain, legislating this decision would be “the worst thing possible”:

“There’s so many benefits from being in the office, particularly for young people, particularly for new starters: the mentoring, what you learn, the innovation, the creativity, the buzz.

“All [of] that takes place when you’re face-to-face in an office environment, let alone everyone else that benefits from being surrounded by an office – both the restaurants and all the other businesses that rely on an office economy.”

 

False Flexibility?

 

Giles Fuchs, CEO of serviced office space provider Office Space in Town (OSiT), warned against false flexibility and the negative impact it can have on employees in reaction to the story:

“The news that the right to work from home could become law comes in clear recognition that workers value autonomy, trust and flexibility, but I would strongly caution employers and legislators against the 'false flexibility' of permanent, full-time remote working and the damage this could cause to employee wellbeing.

“Ditching office work completely in favour of long-term remote working can have profoundly negative consequences. Our 2020 research found that 29 per cent of workers cited loneliness as a significant downside to working from home, with 25 per cent reporting feelings of anxiety and 57 per cent feeling it did not improve their work-life balance. Ultimately, just 5 per cent wished to work remotely full time.

“The value of office working in providing the chance to collaborate, develop professionally and define work-life balance should not be discounted when flexible workstyles are being developed post-pandemic...”

 

Flex From 1st

 

While COVID-19 has driven an increase in remote working, 46 per cent of UK employees still do not have flexible working opportunities.

Those without access to flexible working are around twice as likely to be dissatisfied in their job, compared to those who do, according to research from CIPD.

Their Flex From 1st campaign is encouraging employers to support flexible working for all and the right to request flexible working from day one of employment, supporting the change to UK law.

Advertising jobs as flexible can also help organisations access a wider and more diverse talent pool. The CIPD argues that by not advertising jobs as flexible, organisations are cutting themselves off from potential applicants. This is especially true for roles with skill shortages and hard-to-fill vacancies.

Picture: a photograph of a desk facing a window, showing a laptop, plant and water bottle

Article written by Ella Tansley | Published 04 August 2021

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