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Coronavirus and remote/hybrid working

The pandemic has generated greater appetite for remote and/or hybrid working patterns from employees. That said, individual employers and employees have different perspectives about remote and hybrid working patterns and returning to offices or place of work.

There are differences of opinion between those advocating a return to the office/normal place of work and those pushing for a more employee-oriented flexible post-Covid-19 future of work (including remote and hybrid patterns).

Calls for reform and what the law says

Under existing law, workers don’t have a statutory right to flexible working, only a right to request it after 26 weeks of working for the same employer. However, the Government issued a consultation in September 2021, proposing to make flexible working requests a right for all workers from day one in employment.

Stakeholders like the Trades Union Congress (TUC) propose stronger reforms of flexible working rights for workers than presented by the Government; notably that flexible working should be a default “right to have” (employees should not have to request it). Other proposals include employees having a legal ‘right to disconnect’, which relates to worker’s rights to disengage from work and work-related communications, such as emails, during non-work hours.

Mixed experiences among employees

Research shows that employees experience a mix of benefits and risks from remote or hybrid working patterns, depending on their circumstances.

There are often mixed outcomes, such as greater autonomy and discretion over work patterns coinciding with work intensification and the potential blurring of boundaries between work and life.

Greater consultation and negotiated agreement with workers and their representatives (trade unions or other forms of employee representation) are important to balance employer interests with employee needs. This is vital for creating cooperative employment relationships and mutual gains.

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