Is homeworking set to be a new legal right?

what businesses need to know about furloughing employees | Is homeworking set to be a new legal right?
By James Nadal | 20th May 2020 | 14 min read

Could we be on the verge of a new law giving workers the right to work from home?

According to The Daily Telegraph, the idea has been gaining traction behind the scenes in Downing Street.

Germany has already officially begun the process of putting such legislation into place. So, could the UK follow?


Officials discuss homeworking law

The Telegraph Online reported on 8 May that UK Government officials have put forward the idea of enshrining a right to work from home in law to help ease the lockdown and get businesses moving again. It quoted an unnamed Government Minister as saying: “It makes complete sense."

Ministers want to limit the number of workers travelling at the same time, urging people to avoid public transport as much as possible to avoid risking a further spike in infections. The Government’s current guidelines stipulate that people must continue to work from home if their job allows it.

Some 44% of adults in employment say they worked at home at some point in the last week compared to 12% last year, official Government figures from 7 May showed.

Some might see it as a next step from existing flexible working laws –which state that all employees have the legal right to request flexible working. In fact, The Prime Minister promised greater flexibility for workers in the 2019 Tory party election manifesto.

What do other European nations do?

German Government Minister Hubertus Heil is working on legislation to give employees the right to work from a home office once the Covid-19 crisis has passed, so long as their job can be done remotely. 

In Finland, a leading proponent of flexible working for decades, new laws came into force in January enabling employees to decide not only their working hours, but also their place of work. If they want to spend six months at a sunny Spanish resort while working for their Finnish employer, that is allowed.

Game changer for the UK

A legal right to work from home in the UK would be a huge change.

And there appears to be a growing appetite among workers, according to polling, for more home working in future, especially for those who have seen how easily and effectively they can still do their jobs from home without enduring long, uncomfortable commutes.

Indeed, estate agents are reporting many people are planning to move further away from cities and their place of work to quieter rural areas, with more homeworking in mind.

At IRIS, we know of many accountants who already had remote working arrangements in place – long before the coronavirus pandemic began - such as Jones & Co, who talk about the advantages for accountants in this video.

Should businesses get ready now?

Whether it does become enshrined in law – and how quickly that might happen – is yet to be seen. But the direction of travel towards more homeworking seems clear.

Is your practice set up long term for remote working and ready for the ‘new normal’? Assess your readiness with our one page graphic guide here.

IRIS offers a cloud desktop solution called IRIS Hosting, which empowers your practice to run safely and successfully with remote workers for the long run. Read more about how it can help you continue serving clients effectively here.