Workers will be able to request home working from day one under new laws


WORKING from home could become the norm for millions of Brits after the pandemic.

New rules will give employees the right to request home working from their first day in the job.

Working from home has become more common because of the coronavirus pandemic

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Working from home has become more common because of the coronavirus pandemicCredit: Getty

The government has revealed long-awaited plans for making flexible working easier.

It means that employees starting a new job can ask their boss permission to work from a spare room or kitchen table instead of an office.

Staff could also create flexible shift patterns hours or shifts, rather than the traditional nine-to-five.

Under existing laws, employees have to wait 26 weeks before they can put in a request for home working.

The government has said that the change will give an extra 2.2million Brits the right to request flexible working as it launched a consultation on the matter.

It will also seek feedback on whether other rules are fit for purpose, including the limit of one request per year to work flexibly and the 3-month period businesses have to consider requests.

Business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said: “Empowering workers to have more say over where and when they work makes for more productive businesses and happier employees.

“It was once considered a ‘nice to have’, but by making requests a day one right, we’re making flexible working part of the DNA of businesses across the country.

“A more engaged and productive workforce, a higher calibre of applicants and better retention rates – the business case for flexible working is compelling.”

Brits with long-term caring responsibilities who also work will be given a week’s unpaid time off from day one on the job.

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An estimated 5.5million Brits juggle both according to CarersUK, which said the change was an important step forward for UK workers.

Chief executive of the charity Helen Walker said it “could make a difference to millions – enabling carers to support their relatives whilst staying in work, maintaining social connections and improving their financial stability”.

Back in June, the PM’s official spokesman said the Government would not hand employees the right to demand to work from home.

Speaking at the time, he said: “We’ve always been clear there are significant benefits to be gained from people working in the office, be it innovation, delivery, supporting and developing people, and ensuring people have a higher quality working environment.”

Millions of people have worked from home for the past year or more because of the coronavirus pandemic.

But the official work from home order as part of lockdown was lifted on July 19.

Since then, workers have been able to return to offices along with a mandatory face covering. This will continue through winter, when Covid cases are expected to rise again.

The consultation on flexible working will run until December 1 seeking feedback from businesses and others, before more detailed plans are made.

Any changes will still have to pass through parliament before becoming law.

What are my flexible working rights?

Employers are legally within their rights to tell you where they’d like you to work since stay at home restrictions have been lifted.

But at the same time, employees have a legal right to ask for flexible working if they’ve been employed at the company for more than six months, law firm Doyle Clayton partner Dan Begbie-Clench said.

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However, this does not mean that your boss has to agree to your request – companies can stop employees working from home if they have “good business reasons” he added.

Gill McAteer, head of employment law at Citation, said: “Employers will now find it more challenging to refuse these requests as employees can show they have effectively carried out their role from home during the crisis. 

She added: “Although the existing framework gives employers the power to decide where employees work, it’s still in the interest of the business to take on board its staff’s point of view.

“Flexible and hybrid working can lead to a happier workforce, less bills to pay, and even the need for less office space. However, it can be a fine art to ensure it suits everyone.” 

How can I ask my boss for more flexible working?

Just because your company doesn’t legally have to have flexible working policies in place, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be stuck in the office five days a week.

Many companies are choosing to let Brits work from home even now they can return to the office.

Britain’s biggest 50 firms are planning to keep flexible working in place and said they have no plans to make staff work in the office full time.

But if your employer is less keen on letting you work from home, here are a few tips on how to ask for the benefit.

Begbie-Clench said there is helpful guidance you can use on the gov.uk website to help you request flexible working.

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He said employees should “explain whether their request to work flexibly might have an impact on their team, performance and the business and how they would deal with it”.

Citizens Advice said workers should show some flexibility, perhaps offering to come into the office part-time when possible.

It added: “Start by having an open conversation with your employer about your wishes, and consider making a flexible working request, which is a legal right all employees have.

“You can include your reasons why working from home is better for you and will also help the business.”

 Can you be paid less for working from home? Here are your rights explained.

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