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Home working being made compulsory(14 Posts)
I work in an office that has been gradually making an informal transition to home working over the last ten years or so, to the point where most of us currently work at home four days a week or so (but at our own choice -- we could come into the office whenever we like). We have now been given formal notice that our office is to close early in the new year, and that we will be expected to work at home full time.
We are expected to engage in collective negotiation with management about the terms of this move. I'd be interested to hear from anyone else who's been through such a move about what to expect and what issues we need to consider. Is there any legal requirement on the company to compensate us for changes we need to make at home to accommodate this (eg repurposing a spare room or buying a garden room), and if so, how is this assessed?
I suspect, as you have said "most of us currently work at home four days a week or so (but at our own choice)", then you wouldn't really have a leg to stand on in asking the company to start "buying you garden rooms" I mean, seriously, why would you need a special / different room for just that 5th day ???
I haven't been through the process as you describe, but my employers have closed offices / reduced the desk space and made everyone 'hot desk'. It is universally disliked.
Yes, you use your own heating / electricity at home, but you save on commuting / parking costs. It is such a privilege to be able to work from home, IMO. You save so much time and gain so much in flexibility.
What happens if you are temporarily unable to work in your house for some reason, eg if your WiFi is down, your computer breaks or there is some serious problem in your house such as after a fire? Will the company cover the cost of renting a hot desk somewhere temporarily?
Do you need to see your colleagues sometimes face to face?
If people are wfh 4 days a week I can see why the company are doing this, a physical office is v expensive if employees barely use it.
"It is such a privilege to be able to work from home, IMO. "
Only if you want it. I wouldn't consider it a privilege to have no contact with colleagues, to have to pay for heating all day and be stuck between four walls and I don't see how it could be legal to force me. Not everyone has commuting and parking costs or very high ones.
Onlyif you want it
Indeed, and many, many people do. As I said I consider it to be a real privilege. It is such an attractive 'T&C' to have in your job, for so many people. Maybe not you, but you don't have to be on MN very long before there is a thread about it, and all the advantages it brings.
If you read the OP's post, it seems she, and her colleagues do want it - they have already all opted to wfh at least 4 days a week.
" they have already all opted to wfh at least 4 days a week."
That doesn't mean they all want to do it 5 days a week does it? And it still doesn't make it right for the employer to insist on it without compensating them for their costs.
And it still doesn't make it right for the employer to insist on it without compensating them for their costs
Presumably why they're entering into negotiations...
OP - I'd expect you'd want to thunk about asking them to provide tax advice, suitable equipment e.g. Desk, chair, etc. and possibly a contribution towards broadband (or a second line)
I'd also want to know about collaborative working, so get regular meetings agreed contractually at co-working spaces, as well as the ability to rent such spaces for projects without authorisation below a certain limit.
Also check that if you are officially home based all travel time and expenses are covered.
*think not thunk, obvs!
You might also want to be clear about things like IT support, e.g. If your laptop or company phone stops working. This is a real bitch for home workers!
How are they assessing your desk/chair setup to ensure you aren't at risk from RSI etc?
From memory when DH was moved to being partly home based he could claim for certain things - an office chair, a laptop headset, a printer etc. and he has to do annual online assessments for health and safety.
What if you live in a small flat and don't have space for an office chair etc.? Also, you shouldn't be using a laptop as your main computer or at least if you do, add a proper screen and keyboard.
Thanks for the advice everyone. The 'four days a week' at present is just a rough average, there are some people who come in a lot more because their current home circumstances make it harder for them to work from home (a lot of us live fairly rurally and it can be hard to get reliable fast broadband). There are also a few tasks which are much more conveniently done at the office.
It's hard to describe this in detail without making the company identifiable, but in essence, we have a core job that can mostly be done at home without any special facilities apart from fast Internet access; and then, on top of that, there is ad hoc work which often does require specialist facilities. This is routinely farmed out to freelancers, but some of us also choose to take it on ourselves, as it's the most interesting part of the job. I would like to see us compensated for creating or renting the facilities needed to do this extra work, especially as we are saving the company money when we don't hire freelancers to do it. But I'm not sure whether that is best done by simply asking for a pay rise, by asking the company to hire facilities on our behalf, or in some other way.
OP, are you being formally consulted about these changes (either via employee reps or a trade union?). If so I would raise these questions via that forum. You raise what seems a very reasonable point about the specialist work and the freelancers, and if you can present some evidence/costs on using a freelancer vs paying for access to the facilities for an employed member of staff then you'd hope they'd take that into account.
In general there are no hard and fast rules about what an employer is legally obliged to do in this situation, they should be acting 'reasonably' to support their employees just as they would if they were closing your office and moving you to a new one further away. Support can include things like providing equipment like a desk and chair or an allowance to purchase a home-working set-up (never seen anyone fund the construction of a home office or an extension, sorry!), guidance on how to set up your home office to prevent MSK issues (e.g. not working on the sofa with your laptop on your knees), providing guidance on avoiding isolation as a home worker, ensuring there is good technology like video conferencing to enable employees to stay in touch with each other, paying travel expenses or a contribution for employees to travel to a main office or HQ on a regular basis.
But all of this has to be considered in the context of your company's circumstances and the business reasons behind the move. E.g. if they are on the verge of bankrupcy and getting rid of the office is a desperate move to stay solvent they can't be expected to be paying out £££ to set up home-working. Or if their only remaining office is on the other side of the world it is less reasonable to expect you can travel there all-expenses paid every month than if it's a few miles down the road.
And also you should consider (with advice from a TU or solicitor if need be) how good a negotiation stand point you are coming at this from, as if you want to make the argument that they haven't shown that the new home-working arrangement is suitable and/or a reasonable change in your T&Cs it's unlikely you'll change the fact that the office is still closing. So if you don't agree to home work, you would have to resign and would be looking at trying to prove you were in fact redundant and or unfairly/constructively dismissed, which would be a long and difficult road to go down. On the other hand if the employment market is buoyant in your field and you and your colleagues would easily find work on the same/better terms, if you were to cut your losses with this country, feel free to go in hard as the company would be silly to lose its established workforce for the sake of a few hundred pounds investment in office chairs and bus fares...
I work from home as much as I can and would be entirely happy with 5 days a week.
However, you do need a back-up. I've worked from home at least one day a week for the last ten years and had very few problems with my internet connection - but a few weeks ago I had to go to my local library and even last week I had an outage for a couple of hours, fortunately I could monitor emails via 4G on my phone, and it came back. My library is very good as you register for a week's access, but some libraries restrict you to a couple of hours a day or less - so you might need to find a cafe, which is no good if you need peace and quiet (though libraries aren't that quiet, either).
You need to think about what you will lose by working 5 days a week at home as compared to working 4 days, and those are the things you need to negotiate.
I would suggest getting things paid for by your employer rather than a pay rise to cover the amounts you are spending, as you'd be taxed on a payrise whereas work equipment funded by your employer won't be taxable.