As home working has become the 'new normal' for a significant portion of the population during the pandemic, attitudes have been shifting both in executives' offices and, apparently, in Whitehall.
The Government is now considering bolstering the existing 'work from home' (WFH) rights to grant workers a legal right to WFH. At present, individuals have the statutory right to request flexible working (including to WFH). Employers are required to deal with requests in a 'reasonable manner' but can refuse a request if they have a good business reason for doing so.
Under new rules being discussed, workers would have a legal right to WFH as a default, with employers only able to require staff to work from company offices where it is 'essential'. Proving this is likely to be increasingly difficult following the so-called 'WFH Revolution' that started with compulsory home working beginning for many in March 2020. It is likely that some sectors and specific jobs will be exempt from the rules, such as healthcare workers and teachers, many of whom have been attending their workplaces throughout the pandemic.
Similar legislation is being discussed in a variety of European countries, including Ireland and Germany. In Finland, workers have the right to choose their place of work as well as the ability to allocate a significant portion of their working hours outside of the normal 9-5.
Ministers are yet to confirm whether the mooted WFH policy will be taken forward; however, sources have suggested that the WFH right could come into effect as early as this year.
[This] could effectively allow the millions of office staff who have worked from home during the pandemic to remain doing so for all or part of the week, indefinitely.