Workers could get legal right to work from home after coronavirus lockdown is lifted – Mirror Online - Freelance Rack

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Saturday, May 9, 2020

Workers could get legal right to work from home after coronavirus lockdown is lifted – Mirror Online

Workers could be given the legal right to work from home after the coronavirus lockdown is eased.

The proposal, which reportedly has the support of government ministers, would mean companies could only refuse an employee’s request to work from home if their duties can only be done in the workplace.

Enshrining in law the right to work from home would mean staff cannot be forced to return to the office after lockdown but can continue to work remotely, the Telegraph reports.

It is hoped this would also make it easier for office workers to practise social distancing due to reduced numbers, as the UK continues to take precautions to prevent a second outbreak of the killer virus.

It may also reduce the numbers of commuters on trains and buses, where the virus can easily spread.

Many of us have become accustomed to working from home (Image: Getty Images)

One minister reportedly told the Telegraph: “It makes complete sense.”

It would mean employees would not feel compelled to return to the office and businesses may be able to limit the cost of alterations to workplaces, which would otherwise be necessary to enforce social distancing and prevent the spread of the virus.

It is said the proposal, suggested by officials during discussions over the Government’s return to work package, is being modelled on existing rules governing the rights of parents to request flexible working from their boss.

The Prime Minister promised greater flexibility for workers in his 2019 party manifesto.

The manifesto read: “We will encourage flexible working and consult on making it the default unless employers have good reasons not to.”

Offices may have to be radically changed (Image: Getty Images)

This followed a review by political strategist Matthew Taylor in 2017, in which he wrote: “Encouraging flexible work is good for everyone and has been shown to have a positive impact on productivity, worker retention and quality of work.”

Company bosses preparing to reopen offices shuttered are contemplating radical changes to the workplace to keep staff safe.

Hand sanitisers and thermal scanners are just the start.

Some firms are considering remodelling their offices to minimise the risk of a second wave of infections. Long rows of desks may be out, work stations sheathed with glass sneeze guards may be in.

For the latest coronavirus updates, follow our liveblog

Unions warn members are worried about being able to practise social distancing at work (Image: Getty Images)

Companies may be required to foot the bill for face masks for their staff who return to the office.

A Government spokesman said: “The Business Secretary continues to work with businesses, union leaders and the science and medical community so we can ensure workplaces are safe for those who will go back to work once the measures are relaxed and give people the confidence to return to work.”

New research suggests almost half of workers believe they will spend less time in offices as a result of the coronavirus crisis.

A survey of 2,000 workers found that almost one in two predicted a permanent change to their employers’ approach to flexible working when the lockdown lifts.

Work stations will have to be adapted (Image: Getty Images)

Almost half of those surveyed by ICM for O2 said flexible working will increase, with a third expecting to increase the amount they work from home by at least three days a week.

Many employees admitted the lack of social interaction was challenging, with a third saying working from home can be lonely, and one in four missing socialising with colleagues.

Dr Heejung Chung, social policy director at the University of Kent, who is currently researching the impact of flexible working, said: “It will be difficult to go back to normal ways of working after lockdown, as we’ve now proved that most of us can work from home, despite many companies previously telling employees that it wouldn’t be possible.”

Unions warn that many members are worried about being unable to practise social distancing should they return to work.

Frances O’Grady, General Secretary of the Trades Union Congress (Image: PA)

Last week, union bosses expressed fury at the government’s back-to-work rules, branding them an “open goal for rogue bosses”.

The TUC’s general secretary Frances O’Grady is understood to have urged ministers to strengthen their protections for workers with other union chiefs warning their members may refuse to work if they don’t feel safe.

Department of Business officials are drawing up guidance to get people back to work in the coming weeks.

Recommendations could include staggering shift times to ease the rush hour, avoiding hot-desking or sharing pens, closing lifts and canteens.

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Coronavirus outbreak

But, although bosses are currently advised to keep workers two metres apart wherever possible, the guidance states: “It will not always be possible to keep a distance of 2m. In these circumstances both employers and employees must do everything they can to reduce risk.”

Cabinet minister Ben Wallace signalled some firms will be allowed to adopt other measures, even halving the distance to one metre if workers are given screens and protective kit.

He said: “You could wear PPE, that could be a possibility, or indeed you could find other ways of doing it, shielding for example.”

Unions slammed the guidance – which only asks firms to “consider” the moves – insisting bosses should be forced to adopt them.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Throughout this crisis the TUC has sought to engage constructively with ministers.

“But we cannot support the Government’s back-to-work plans as they stand.

“They are an open goal for rogue employers, who will cut corners and put their workers, and the wider community, at risk.

“We want new binding rules for employers to publish their risk assessment. We want clear guidance to set out the minimum standards that Current back-plans an open for employers employers must meet in order to protect public safety.

“And we want ministers to outline a new tough approach to enforcement. Unless the Government significantly strengthens its plans, safe working will not be guaranteed.

“The current proposals fail to provide clear direction to those employers who want to act responsibly.”



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