Permanent Changes or Temporary Solutions to Office Life?
As the coronavirus pandemic persists, employees are getting used to working from home with many noticing benefits including avoiding stressful, time consuming commutes; saving money on travel and food; managing work more efficiently; fewer interruptions; and seeing their children more often. Once the pandemic passes, it is expected there will be a sustained cultural shift towards working from home as a norm with many employees wanting to continue it, at least for part of the week but where do they stand legally?
Different countries have different approaches to homeworking with some having the right to work from home supported by law while others are left entirely up to an employer-employee agreement. Within the UK, working parents have been entitled to request flexible working for childcare reasons since 2003. This right was then extended to all employees in the UK from 2014, stating that employees have the legal right to request flexible working for any reason.
Although employees in the UK have a statutory right to request flexible working, prior to Covid-19, only around 5% of its 33 million workers mainly worked from home. However, many predict that after the current crisis, flexible working will become the new norm and we will see a shift in the working culture. More employees are likely to ask for flexibility to work from home, including at the recruitment stage, which will potentially force employers to open up to the idea and consider such requests more favourably than before.
The recent lockdown restrictions created the perfect platform for many employers to test out remote working with their employees and the result has been an unexpected success thanks to technology such as Teams and Zoom. However, it remains to be seen whether this shift will lead to a continued working from home culture or whether employers will snap back to pre-lockdown and enforce an office-centralised workforce. For the foreseeable future though, the impact of Covid-19 on working trends seems inescapable.