Despite the government “roadmap” which has encouraged businesses to implement home-working arrangements wherever possible, the law does not currently oblige employers to grant permanent work-from-home status to employees after the UK pandemic restrictions are lifted. As long as appropriate precautions are in place (i.e. distancing, sanitiser, screens etc), your employer can insist that you return to the office, even if you are able to do your job and work from home.
However, the Government is considering mandating working from home as a matter of employee choice and an employee who has completed 26 weeks of service is legally entitled to make a flexible working request which the employee, in turn, is legally obliged to consider. This request can still be refused on a number of grounds: the impact on costs and ability to meet customer demand, staffing levels and availability of the type of work that can be carried out remotely.
Nevertheless, the prevailing mood in the workplace means that the trend towards hybrid-working is something that will continue on after the pandemic, with experts in the tech and business sectors already predicting a more flexible and agile job market (Goldman Sachs, Deloitte and Google to name a few). Throughout the UK, companies and institutions are being energised by the trust and cooperation that well-managed remote working generates and are keen to build on its momentum and advantages.
So, although many employers insist that office time is essential for accountability, cohesion and morale, some degree of flexibility can be expected. This is because leaders are already seeing the benefits of allowing staff to effect change and positively influence their work culture. With many people in the UK in favour of some kind of hybrid arrangement and with the government adopting a “hands off” approach, the time for this change may be sooner, rather than later.
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