The Future of flexible working

In 2020 businesses had to rapidly adopt new ways of working as Covid-19 restrictions required staff to work from home. Almost a year on and while we all hope that the emergence of a vaccine will mean that these restrictions will ease, the ways of working have changed beyond recognition.

Employment Partner, Sean McDonough considers the short and long term impact of COVID-19 on flexible working, and the extent to which employees are willing (or not) to return to their ‘normal’ place of work.

Short term challenges

There are obvious challenges facing both employers and employees who remain concerned about the safety of the workplace, coupled with the need to get people back to work to prevent further job losses.

If an employee refuses to come back to work because they are vulnerable, an employer may ask them to take annual leave, paid sick leave, or offer flexible work arrangements such as reduced hours or remote working. Whilst these options may be limited in scope, they may help to soften the blow for those individuals who have to make the difficult decision between safeguarding their health and protecting their future job prospects.

For those employees who are and have been able to work remotely, a recent study* by Cardiff and Southampton Universities has shown that these employees have been as productive if not more productive during the pandemic. The same survey indicated that 9 out of 10 employees would prefer to work from home in the future. With this sort of research it is difficult to see therefore, how a wholesale return to the old way of working 5 days a week in the office would work in practice.

Looking ahead

Change has already happened and is here to stay, and employers will need to consider a variety of different legal issues when bringing staff back to work over the months ahead. It is clear that whilst remote working certainly has its benefits, there is still a need for a physical place of work, especially where jobs cannot be done remotely.

Flexible working is now being seen as the norm, with many job adverts promoting flexible working as a part of the benefits package. Businesses therefore have to adapt to incorporate this new normal working environment as it is here to stay.

Please get in touch if you want to review your existing contracts or amend future contracts or of you have any questions regarding specific employees within your business. It is better to act now and be prepared. or 01225 750 000.

*Homeworking in the UK: Before and During the 2020 Lockdown 
Mogers Drewett

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