The pandemic has resulted in many employees being quickly enabled to work more flexibly from home, with the increased benefits of reduced commute times, travel costs and lunch purchases, it’s easy to see why this has been perceived as a benefit by many employees. Are employees able to insist that they remain working from home?
The Legal Position
Employees with at least 26 weeks’ continuous employment have the right to make a request for flexible working, which could include working from home. If you receive a flexible working request you must deal with it reasonably so as not to breach the implied term of trust and confidence. There are 8 lawful grounds to refuse a request, and employees are able to challenge this at a tribunal should they believe there are other reasons at play. It will certainly be harder for employers to argue that working from home is no longer possible when offices can accommodate more people, if they have worked effectively from home before. Employees can only put one flexible working request in every 12 months so it is worth bearing this in mind if you have a persistent employee.
The government have spent time recently encouraging people to go back into the office if it is safe to do so, but they appear to have no plans to make working from home a statutory right. That’s not to say this won’t be introduced in future years though, so it is easier if you are able to adapt to it earlier on.