Demystifying the new working from home guidance

Jan 11th, 2022

Laura Clark, Senior Associate Solicitor

In light of the government announcing its move to Plan B restrictions, including advice to return to working from home where possible, Laura Clark, senior associate solicitor at Langleys Solicitors, explains the rights that employees have and how employers can ensure the workplace is as safe as possible if employees are unable to work from home.

Do people have to work from home?

It’s important to note that the government’s work from home instruction is “guidance” and so cannot be enforced by law or seen as mandatory. However, if it’s possible for an employee to carry out their role effectively from home, then this is advisable at present to prevent the spread of the new variant and lessen the risk of infection.

If employees are unable to do their job from home – the guidance says this could be where they need to access equipment for their role, or where their role must be completed in person -  it is acceptable for them to travel to their place of work. Additionally, some employers are adopting a more flexible approach to the guidance and allowing employees to come to the office if it is beneficial to their mental health. Indeed, the guidance also says that employers should consider letting people come to work if they have a “challenging home environment”. After a difficult few years, it is understandable and really positive that employers are being mindful of their employees wellbeing.

There is currently no guidance on what vulnerable members of society should do and if they must shield. If an employee has concerns about their health, they should speak to their employer as soon as possible in order to agree a solution.

How can employers ensure it is safe for employees to come to work?

Businesses have a legal duty to look after their employees and customers and ensure that the workplace does not pose a risk to them. If staff are going to the office, it would be beneficial to practice social distancing, think about wearing a mask and sanitise hands and workstations regularly to lessen the chances of catching coronavirus. Businesses’ should also follow government guidance on keeping employees safe and carry out Covid risk assessments for staff working in the office.

Can an employer ask staff to work from the office?

Yes (subject to the terms of the employee’s employment contract). The guidance gives employers discretion to assess and decide whether a role can be carried out at home. If they determine that it cannot be, then they may reasonably instruct an employee to work from the office.

Employees should raise any concerns with their employers and it may be possible to come to an agreement to suit both sides, such as travel later to avoid busy times on public transport or to work some of the time at home.

However, if a person feels that their employer has not carried out a complete risk assessment or implemented provisions to ensure staff safety, then an employee may have grounds not to go to the workplace.

<< back to news and articles

Laura Clark

Senior Associate Solicitor

Contact Us

How can we help?

Wherever you are, whatever you need, we’re here to help. Use this form to tell us what’s happening and we’ll be in touch.

By submitting this form you are providing your information to Langleys and agreeing to our terms of use and privacy notice.