BOSSES could be forced to offer everyone the chance to work from home if they want to, Matt Hancock suggested today.
The Health Secretary said he would consider changing the law to force employers to offer it to staff after the coronavirus pandemic.
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Around half of the country has been working at home due to the outbreak, when Brits had to stay at home to help control the spread of the virus.
And a study today said that nearly one in three people are prepared to keep working from home for the time-being.
Speaking in a webchat with members of women’s club AllBright this morning, Mr Hancock said the coronavirus pandemic had made flexible working the “new norm” and was something all “good employers” should accommodate moving forward.
When asked if he would consider enforcing this through Government legislation, Mr Hancock replied “yes”, adding: “The way you could look at it is there’s a right to request flexible working.
“I definitely think it should be the norm where possible.
“We need to persuade people that allowing flexible working should continue. This is a change that is never going to go away.”
Mr Hancock also called for a study to be done into the “efficacy” of remote working, though he said the broader benefits of the practice – particularly for women – made it worth sustaining in the long-term.
“There’s a debate as to whether people work better when they’re working from home and it’s really difficult to know whether productivity goes up or down, but we’ve just had a massive experiment in that and we need to understand the answer to that,” he said.
“There’s a big argument that productivity has gone up during this when people are working from home, certainly in terms of well-being.”
The main beneficiaries of home working were women as they tend to have more childcare responsibilities, he said, adding: “Evidence shows (flexible working) on average benefits women more than men”.
At the moment employers have to consider flexible working requests, such as job-sharing, working from home or varying hours.
But there’s no legal obligation for them to say yes.
Officials at the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy department have now suggested making the right to work from home into law, The Telegraph reported last month.
One Government minister told the publication: “It makes complete sense.”
British businesses look set to be more flexible about working from home in the future – with nearly half of bosses believing it will save them money.
Seven in 10 are now considering changing previous rules and regulations, after being so impressed with how staff have reacted.
Three out of five people surveyed by Halifax said they did not expect things to ever go back to normal.
Many saw working from home as a way to be kinder to the environment, too.
Many big employers have told their employees to work from home for the meantime if they can – some have been informed the changes will become semi-permanent for the next few months.
Other offices are operating a hybrid system where some workers come in a couple of days a week, and work from home the rest of the time.
Strict new rules are operating in workplaces, where there is a maximum capacity that can be in at any one time.
Screens are put in place in some workplaces, and markers on the floor telling people to stay apart.
The Government has said people who have to work in person at a site should do so.