CWU: can my employer force me to work from home?
Many employees want to know their rights, and whether their employers can force them to stay at home if they would rather be in the office.
Following the pandemic many employers and employees are exploring the options of homeworking and hybrid working. But, whilst many employees may welcome this opportunity to spend less time in the office, 37% want to return to the office full time.*
Cramped living pace, keeping work and home life separate, working longer hours and social isolation are reasons not everyone views home working as an advantage.
If an employer tries to impose some form of home working unfortunately the contract of employment cannot always be relied upon to protect the employee. The wording is important, some contracts will specify the place work, others will have things such as a mobility clause, enabling the employer to change your place of work, others will have wording such as ’normal’ place of work leaving it open for the employer to be able to make changes.
However even where a contract gives the opportunity for an employer to vary it, those changes still need to reasonable. Imposed homeworking may have been deemed reasonable when the government mandated it but less so when the reasons to implement it are different.
Ultimately, if agreement cannot be reached the employer will either have to dismiss the employee and risk an unfair dismissal case or, the employee will have to resign and claim ‘constructive’ dismissal. For an employee this is a very high risk strategy for in either event the employee has lost their job even if their claim is successful at an employment tribunal.
So where does that leave employees who do not want to work from home? Firstly obtain a copy of your contract to see what it does state, object to the proposed changes through a grievance if necessary and clearly put to your employer your reasons for objecting to their proposals. If you are able to compromise in some areas - maybe better or more equipment is needed, more help for costs, help with modifying your home etc it may be possible to reach agreement.
Good employers should be trying to reach an agreement rather than impose or dismiss employees. An employment tribunal is not the ideal solution for an employee but neither is it for an employer usually.
Get help, if you are in a trade union seek their advice, if you are not in a union – join one. Even if the union is not recognized in your workplace they can still advise you and represent you in a grievance.
Find out more here at CWU.
* source One in five want to work from home full time after the pandemic | YouGov