Employees will be able to request to work from home from FIRST day in a new job under law change


Employees will reportedly be able to put in a request to work from home from their first day in a job under plans due to be announced later this week.

Laws which will protect flexible working first put forward before the pandemic will be confirmed, according to a report in The Times.

The current rules mean employees have to accrue 26 weeks – or half a year – of continuous service before they have a legal right to request flexible working.

Employers are able to decline such requests on business grounds if they wish. 

It is reported ministers will confirm the proposal on Thursday as part of a consultation, The Guardian said in a separate report.

Employees will reportedly be able to put in a request to work from home from their first day in a job under plans due to be announced later this week. Pictured: Library image.

Employees will reportedly be able to put in a request to work from home from their first day in a job under plans due to be announced later this week. Pictured: Library image.

This will allow anyone to make a request from the start of their job, with the move aimed at enabling women, disabled people and carers to balance their work and life commitments.

A government source told the Times: ‘The business case is compelling. If you’re happy at work you’re less likely to leave, and companies benefit from motivated employees.’ 

However, Labour has criticised the plans as not going far enough.

Deputy leader Angela Rayner said: ‘Labour will give workers the right to flexible working – not just the right to request it – and give all workers full rights from day one on the job.

‘This is a U-turn from the Conservative manifesto which promised to make flexible working the default and once again the Conservatives have sold out working people.

‘The ‘new normal’ after this pandemic must mean a new deal for all working people based on flexibility, security and strengthened rights at work.’

Working from home became a huge part of the Covid pandemic as the Government urged Britons to stay indoors. 

As the pandemic developed, and the UK moved out of lockdown, the Government changed to advising people to work from home where possible.

Companies able to allow their employees to work away from the office moved to a primarily work from home basis.

However, since July, and the lifting of Covid restrictions in England, many office workers have returned to the office in some capacity.

Some firms, such as building society Nationwide, announced earlier this year that staff would be able to continue working from home even after the lifting of restrictions.

Working from home became a huge part of the Covid pandemic as the Government urged Britons to stay indoors (pictured: Library image). As the pandemic developed, and the UK moved out of lockdown, the Government changed to advising people to work from home where possible

Working from home became a huge part of the Covid pandemic as the Government urged Britons to stay indoors (pictured: Library image). As the pandemic developed, and the UK moved out of lockdown, the Government changed to advising people to work from home where possible

Some firms, such as building society Nationwide (pictured: Library image), announced earlier this year that staff would be able to continue working from home even after the lifting of restrictions

Some firms, such as building society Nationwide (pictured: Library image), announced earlier this year that staff would be able to continue working from home even after the lifting of restrictions

And last week, in a poll reported by the BBC, 70 per cent said they thought workers would ‘never return to offices at the same rate’. 

But in the same poll, half of 530 senior leaders surveyed by YouGov for the BBC said that workers staying at home would adversely affect both creativity and collaboration.

This was compared to just 38 per cent of the general public. 

Meanwhile, a study published last month warned workers in Britain are suffering from an ‘epidemic of hidden overtime’ with women 43 per cent more likely than men to be working longer than a standard working week during the pandemic.

Employees are finding they can never quite ‘switch off’ and so continue to work throughout the evening and weekend amid an expectation to ‘stay on’ as the day is extended in fragments, the Autonomy think tank said.

Experts say the issue particularly affects those working remotely – with a lack of clear boundaries between work and leisure in the UK meaning workers are more likely to take calls and respond to emails throughout the evening.

The think tank found that women are 43 per cent more likely than men to have increased their hours beyond a standard working week, and for those with children this was even more clearly associated with mental distress.

Some 86 per cent of women who carry out a standard working week alongside childcare, greater than or equal to the UK average, were said to have experienced mental distress during April 2020 when the Covid-19 crisis began.

The prevalence of mental distress linked to changes in working patterns for men and women between April and June 2020

The prevalence of mental distress linked to changes in working patterns for men and women between April and June 2020

The average working hours across EU countries shows how only the Greeks have a longer working week than Britons

The average working hours across EU countries shows how only the Greeks have a longer working week than Britons 

The GDP and annual hours per capita across EU countries are shown in this graph, with the biggest disparity in Greece

The GDP and annual hours per capita across EU countries are shown in this graph, with the biggest disparity in Greece

New working patterns have placed a greater burden on those carrying out standard caregiving – which again has disproportionately impacted women, according to study by Hampshire-based Autonomy.

Two thirds of workers (65 per cent) whose working week increased beyond a standard 37.5-40 hours and who also carried out active childcare during April at a rate greater than or equal to the UK average reported mental distress.

By June 2020 more than half (51 per cent) of workers keeping up this level of work alongside childcare were experiencing mental distress. The study said the UK average level of childcare giving is 80 minutes a day.

Data on overtime levels from 2018 found more than five million UK workers put in a total of two billion unpaid hours of work – an average of 7.5 hours a week per worker and £32.7billion of free labour annually.

The report, called ‘The Right to Disconnect’, said: ‘Much of the data on unpaid labour time concentrates on low paid hourly work and labour market violations. But there is a more subtle problem emerging in our digitally connected world – the expectation to be ‘always on’.

‘Modern workplaces and homes are digital spaces. The fact that we are able to send and receive messages, emails, and online content 24 hours a day, seven days a week means that it is increasingly hard to disconnect, enjoy our leisure time and develop a healthy work-life balance.

‘This has created an epidemic of ‘hidden overtime’, where workers never quite ‘switch off’ and continue to do bits of work throughout the evening and weekend.

‘Being ‘switched back on’ by an employer after the working day has finished differs from standard overtime, whereby a worker is usually required to ‘stay on’. Instead, a call from an employer – and the response it requires – expands the working day fragment by fragment, meaning the worker is never quite ‘off’.’

The report also sets out legislation needed to enshrine the ‘right to disconnect’ into British law – calling for two amendments to the Employment Rights Act 1996 to ensure workers have the right to fully disconnect from all work communications outside of work hours. 

The prevalence of mental distress across industries for 2017-19 and June 2020, three months after the pandemic

The prevalence of mental distress across industries for 2017-19 and June 2020, three months after the pandemic

Days lost due to illness caused or made worse by work. Data for thousands of days lost in the past 12 months, 2010/11‑2018/19

Days lost due to illness caused or made worse by work. Data for thousands of days lost in the past 12 months, 2010/11‑2018/19

An International Labour Organization study looked at the percentage of workers who were home based before the pandemic

An International Labour Organization study looked at the percentage of workers who were home based before the pandemic

This graphic from TomTom shows how congestion in London in the first few months of 2021 was significantly below 2019 levels (blue circles), before recovering to above 2019 levels (red circles) by late April, as people began to return to the office

This graphic from TomTom shows how congestion in London in the first few months of 2021 was significantly below 2019 levels (blue circles), before recovering to above 2019 levels (red circles) by late April, as people began to return to the office

The new laws are modelled on the French Government’s right to disconnect law which was introduced in 2016.

Under this law, French employees do not have to take calls or read emails related to work during their time off.

A survey of 2,000 workers by Linkedin in partnership with the Mental Health Foundation found that a loss of boundaries between work and home life have meant those working from home during the pandemic are working on average 28 hours extra a month.

Will Stronge, director of research at Autonomy, said: ‘The Covid pandemic has accelerated the need to create much clearer boundaries between work-life and home-life.

‘By enshrining a right to disconnect in British law, workers will be able to take back some control of their lives.

‘British workers put in longer full-time hours than most of Europe and action is needed at the level of government to address these fundamentally unsustainable working conditions.’



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