Briefing paper – Protecting working from home during COVID-19
By Torrin Wilkins and Janey Little, July 20th 2020. Centre Think Tank ISSN 2634-4696
This paper will explore how working from home can be encouraged more after the COVID-19 outbreak. It will explore the current UK laws on the issue, how other countries handle and encourage working from home (Finland, Germany and the Netherlands) and what policy proposals we would support the UK taking up with these other countries in mind. This paper concludes:
- With the COVID-19 lockdown and social distancing still in place, working from home has suddenly become a new normal. Even when things return to normal, the option to work from home should remain.
- Working from home has benefits including reducing long distance travel and, as a result, emissions. In the fight against climate change working from home provides a way of reducing emissions without disruption.
- In the UK employees have the right to request flexible working, which includes working from home. However, there is little protection for workers if their employer denies their request.
- Germany has successfully created a legal framework to protect workers who want to work from home and it also looks likely to introduce a law to allow them to work at home as a right.
- The Netherlands already has 14.1% of its workforce working from home, even before COVID-19. The UK needs to copy their protections for those who work at home
- Working from home requires universally high broadband connectivity. Without this those in rural areas or areas with low internet speeds are unlikely to be able to benefit from working from home.
- Finland has also been championing working from home. We need to copy collective bargaining and workers on company boards which helps to protect the ability to work from home.
- The UK needs to make it so that businesses must prove people cannot work at home if they are denying them the ability to do so. Workers must also have access to high internet speeds and 20% of the seats on company boards.