Back to school, back to work. It is September. But it is also September 2021 and the debate about home and office working rages on.
UK Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has said that those who continue to work from home are less likely to be promoted. He told the BBC: “If you look at human organisations, people do build relationships and build networks through face to face contact. People who come into the office may have an advantage in that.”
Data from the Office for National Statistics released earlier this year covering the decade from 2010 to 2020 also showed how before the pandemic, working from home could negatively affect an employee’s earning potential, their chances of promotion and their likelihood of receiving a bonus.
Kwasi Kwarteng has also said that flexible working is here to stay and that it should be up to businesses and their employees to come to their own arrangements depending on the needs of the company.
We can already see the potential for tension without the need for a crystal ball. HR professionals are already thinking ahead to be ready for the challenges which could come their way.
On the face of it the different experiences of those working in the office and those working from home could be born out of choice where an employer has offered options and the possibility of hybrid working. But it would be wise for employers to dig deeper and think about why an employee is preferring to work from home rather than in the office. This could be linked to childcare, caring for a dependent or a medical condition which makes office working more challenging.
An employee could have increased infection risks, for example, or have a medical condition which makes commuting more challenging. This may not be obvious to employers. Just to give some examples. Neurodiversity means that some employees may look to benefit from the most productive working environment for them. The ability to rest and lie down will be important for employees with certain disabilities where reasonable adjustments are needed and home working will facilitate this.
It is going to be important to avoid a culture of out of sight out of mind especially in the areas of promotion and career advancement. Documenting why promotion decisions are being taken will be key as will ensuring equal opportunities for training and appraisals. In reaching appraisal scores, credit should be given for the quality of work rather than where that work is carried out. Similarly, e-learning and webinars should remain the norm for those working remotely.
Delegation and presenting opportunities should be carefully thought through rather than to the benefit of the person in the right place at the right time otherwise known as water cooler moments work allocation.
Consistency in treatment of employees has always been at the heart of managing risk in the employment law world. Now this will extend to employees who are less visible than they used to be as we move with the times.
For initial advice or to arrange a meeting with one of our Employment team, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or contact 020 7631 4141 and ask to speak to our Employment team.
The above is accurate as at 14 September 2021. The information above may be subject to change during these ever-changing times.
The content of this note should not be considered legal advice and each matter should be considered on a case by case basis.