There can be no going back to old working practises
The government must introduce legislation that gives workers a legal right to work remotely – not merely the right to request flexible working arrangements, according to Social Democrats Enterprise Spokesperson Catherine Murphy.
“The pandemic has been hugely difficult for people right across society – but there are some changes, necessitated by covid, that we want to retain. Chief among them is flexible working arrangements.
“The government has said it will this week publish legislation that gives people a statutory right to request working from home. This does not go far enough. The default position should be that flexible working is permissible. It should not be at the whim of employers to accept it or reject it.
“A change like this could be truly transformative, particularly for women, disabled people and carers – many of whom have been forced to give up work, or locked out of the jobs market, because of the absence of a statutory right to work remotely.
“A legal right to work remotely would also help the government meet its climate action targets. The Climate Action Plan envisions car travel being reduced by 500,000 journeys per day by 2030. A legal right to work from home would help meet this target by reducing the need for commuting by private car.
“The right to remote working is also of crucial importance to ease housing pressure in urban areas and to facilitate rural regeneration.”
“In the UK, there is already a legal right to request working from home but employees must be employed for 26 weeks before they can request it; it can take three months to get a response and the employer can reject an application for a wide variety of reasons.
“It seems as if the government plans to publish a version of this underwhelming legislation. That is the extent of their ambition on this issue. The pandemic has already taught us that many jobs can be done remotely without a loss of productivity. The government should not pretend otherwise.
“The government needs to do more than make minor incremental change in this area. There can be no going back to old working practises. To ensure overdue and long-lasting reform, its plans must include a legal right to work remotely.”
24 January, 2022