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Nov 12, 2021

HR expert Nicky Jolley, managing director of North East-based HR2day, has hit out at government proposals to give employees a legal right to work from home, even after the pandemic.

Nicky said, “In a post-pandemic world, it should be up to employers and their staff to decide what is best for them. Any suggestion that workers could be given a legal right to demand to work from home would undermine the integrity of businesses to make decisions which are best for them.

“The pandemic has been a watershed moment for both businesses and their employees, many of whom have taken stock of their work/life balance and re-evaluated their priorities. For some, working from home has been a welcome release from the rat race but for others it has been a mental health nightmare. The key, moving forward, is balance.”

A leaked government document has suggested that a right to work could be enshrined in law. Under the proposal, employers would be required to demonstrate that it was essential for staff to attend the workplace in order to justify preventing them from working flexibly.

Nicky continued: “Government intervention on this issue is neither welcome nor necessary. A mandatory work from home clause will not only destroy many working relationships and the vital spirit of office working but will lead to a collapse in town and city centre economies.

“But a balanced approach will benefit everyone. Over the past 18 months many businesses, previously resistant to change, have had their hands tied – being forced to give remote working a try and having to offer flexible hours to staff who’ve needed to home school or self-isolate.

“But businesses should be aware that the post pandemic jobs market is looking increasingly buoyant, and companies that abandon all flexibility may find they lose valued staff members.”

In a recent study by Ring Central, 92 per cent of millennials said they would actively seek out employment which offered flexible working, with 80 per cent of women saying they particularly desired a flexible working role.

Nicky said, “Increasingly, firms are introducing flexible working hours, core hours and benefits to attract new employees and retain staff who may be wooed away by bigger firms. The companies that continue to offer this are becoming an incredibly attractive prospect to young professionals, who are prioritising work/life balance over ‘living to work’.

“Smaller businesses, particularly those that have been established for a long time, may be tempted to get back to the old days, but this may encourage their millennial staff to look for jobs elsewhere that will give them more time to spend with their families, as well as avoiding burnout.

“I would encourage every small business to consult with its team to find out what the employees want and how a better approach to working can be achieved. This will keep talent in the region and small businesses thriving.

“Last year was a turning point and small firms need to adapt to survive. If they don’t join the 21st Century, they could find themselves consigned to the history books.”