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The future of flexible working for global employers following the covid-19 pandemic – Lexology

The pressured and sudden shift to distant working will lengthy be recognised as one of the vital important impacts of the covid-19 pandemic for employers. Though government-imposed restrictions have fluctuated once in a while around the globe, the truth that lots of the world’s largest economies have remained in some type of lockdown for greater than a yr has dispelled any doubts that the shift to distant working is a short-term phenomenon. The expectation is that, even after vaccination programmes are full, a big proportion of workers will count on to earn a living from home not less than a few of the time going ahead in a hybrid mannequin. Employers’ response to this alteration in working habits could also be essential to their future success, and it brings with it many employment-law issues.

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Employers will want to be certain that this shift in direction of versatile working doesn’t negatively impression productiveness, collaboration or firm tradition. Whereas research have proven that individuals may be as productive, if no more so, when working from dwelling, the sensible and operational benefits of an employer’s whole workforce working from dwelling might doubtlessly be diminished when a considerable proportion of the workers returns to the office. In different phrases, distant working could also be efficient when everyone seems to be in the identical place, however it’s more likely to show more difficult for employers when some workers stay working remotely whereas others return to the office. In figuring out their strategy to versatile working going ahead, every employer might want to risk-assess, design, implement new insurance policies and procedures, and educate their workers on the expectations and parameters of the brand new working mannequin. They may even want to contemplate relevant native legislation, bargaining and different collective agreements, and societal norms, recognising that it could be difficult to undertake a uniform strategy throughout the completely different jurisdictions wherein they function. We set out under a few of the key issues international employers might want to handle regarding versatile working within the aftermath of the covid-19 pandemic.

New worker expectations

Everlasting distant working is now being thought of by each employers and workers who wouldn’t have thought of this a viable choice simply 12 months in the past. The World Financial Discussion board’s newest Future of Jobs Report, printed in October 2020, states that 44 per cent of staff can conduct their work remotely. Particularly in the UK, in a September 2020 ballot of greater than 2,000 workplace staff carried out by the British Council for Workplaces, practically half of respondents stated that they meant to earn a living from home a few of the time going properly into 2021, and this was at a time when one other nationwide lockdown appeared unlikely.

The results of a long-term shift to versatile working is that employers will have to be considering now about how they’re going to reply to worker expectations of recent working patterns when authorities steerage now not requires individuals to work remotely within the completely different international locations wherein they function. As so many workers have indicated a desire for distant working not less than a part of the time going ahead, employers want to contemplate fastidiously how greatest to stay an employer of selection and keep aggressive regarding essentially the most versatile and fascinating working practices. Some international employers have already confirmed plans to maneuver to full distant working, whereas others have as a substitute emphasised the advantages of in-person collaboration and indicated a desire for obligatory office attendance save in distinctive circumstances.

Responding to elevated versatile working requests

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Many international locations have already got in place a authorized framework addressing workers’ rights regarding requesting versatile working preparations. It has lengthy been recognised that by permitting workers to work flexibly to assist accommodate their household and different commitments, employers are more likely to appeal to and keep a extra various and dedicated workforce. In the UK, for instance, workers who’ve labored for his or her employer for not less than 26 weeks have the appropriate to make a versatile working request. Employers might refuse the appliance so long as:

  • they deal with the request in an affordable method;
  • they notify the worker of the choice throughout the choice interval; and
  • they meet a number of of the eight grounds for refusing a request (which incorporates the burden of further prices and the detrimental impact on the power to fulfill buyer demand ensuing from the versatile working request).

The brand new methods of working for the reason that first UK nationwide lockdown in March 2020 might imply that employers will probably be extra more likely to grant versatile working requests than they might have been earlier than the pandemic as a result of they now have in depth proof that it could actually work very successfully. However, they could discover it more difficult to determine an affordable foundation to refuse a request, provided that workers have had the chance to display how productive they are often when working remotely. Some employers could also be hesitant to grant everlasting versatile working requests till they know the way successfully hybrid working preparations, with some workers at dwelling and a few within the office, will function. Employers might want to weigh up the extent to which distant working will work for them as a enterprise, and for which roles, over the long run.

In a number of international locations, authorities are contemplating implementing new guidelines regarding versatile working requests. This may increasingly contain a shift in direction of the default place being a proper to work flexibly, with employers needing to justify a requirement for everlasting on-site working. The place workers in sure sectors have demonstrated that they will work successfully on a distant foundation, such adjustments within the legislation might have a major impression on the numbers of people that shift in direction of extra everlasting versatile working.

In addition to agreeing to particular person versatile working requests, many employers have proven their intention to be proactive by altering their versatile working insurance policies in a extra wholesale method, resembling permitting all workers to work remotely for a hard and fast period of time every week or month, typically 40 to 50 per cent of working hours. There won’t be a one-size-fits-all answer for all employers, and efficient versatile working practices will fluctuate in response to trade. Nonetheless, employers ought to now be considering their future versatile working insurance policies, taking into consideration their particular person enterprise wants, the wants of their workers and the necessity to stay aggressive in opposition to their friends.

Relevant authorities steerage

Employers might want to observe relevant authorities steerage in regards to the attendance of workers within the office within the varied jurisdictions wherein they function. In some international locations, on the time of writing, the recommendation stays that workplace staff who can earn a living from home ought to achieve this. Employers in such areas are due to this fact required to facilitate distant working wherever potential. Employers ought to assess enterprise wants and think about whether or not the bodily presence within the office is required. The employer should be certain that workplaces are secure for any workers who can not earn a living from home. Employers may even have to be ready for the truth that future lockdowns could also be required on quick discover over years to return, to alleviate anticipated pressure on well being authorities and mitigate the danger of widespread contamination. As such, employers ought to be certain that ongoing compliance with authorities steerage once in a while is expressly referred to when enacting any medium- to long-term distant working insurance policies.

Parameters for versatile working

Employers might want to plan for the way they’re going to cope with versatile working requests they obtain in a post-covid world, making an allowance for that they are going to danger discrimination claims if they’re perceived to make choices on versatile working primarily based on workers’ protected traits. A number of issues will have to be addressed, together with the way in which requests from workers with particular traits resembling disabilities, or working dad and mom, are handled. To mitigate the dangers, employers ought to designate one individual or workforce to supervise versatile working requests to make sure a level of consistency within the choices being made.

Innovation and effectivity

Employers ought to think about how innovation and effectivity are affected by long-term versatile working.

Quite a few research have analysed the impression on employee productiveness throughout enforced distant working. Particularly, workers whose psychological well being suffers on account of distant working are more likely to be much less productive than in an workplace surroundings. The social isolation related to distant working, mixed with the shortage of clear work-life boundaries, can impression workers’ motivation. Staff have additionally reported affected by exhaustion related to having extra digital conferences than they used to have face-to-face conferences within the workplace.

Nonetheless, some research have discovered workers’ productiveness has elevated on account of working from dwelling. As workers have develop into used to working remotely, many have reported having the ability to get rid of distractions extra successfully at dwelling than within the workplace. There have additionally been reviews of workers taking fewer sick days. Additional, the shortage of a commute implies that some workers are committing extra time to their work than they beforehand did within the workplace.

Regarding innovation, there are reviews that the collaboration achieved by spending time with colleagues in the identical office results in larger communication and innovation, whereas dwelling working can stifle innovation and creativity. However, a beneficiant versatile working coverage is more likely to make an employer enticing to workers, thus drawing curiosity from prime expertise.

As such, employers will doubtless want to assess whether or not the burden of workplace overheads is outweighed by the advantages of getting all staff in the identical place, or if in actual fact, distant working can result in a extra modern and productive workforce inside their explicit enterprise and sector.

Different authorized and sensible issues

Employers’ duties in direction of workers’ well being and wellbeing

In most jurisdictions, employers have an obligation of care in direction of their workers to safeguard their well being, security and welfare. Such obligation doesn’t stop when an worker begins to work remotely, and employers have a number of issues to take into consideration on this respect.

Office assessments

In the UK, for instance, employers have the identical well being and security tasks for dwelling staff as for every other staff. The Well being and Security Govt has outlined the necessity for employers to information workers by way of workstation assessments at dwelling, particularly relating to the usage of display-screen tools, to forestall neck or again accidents or associated issues. Employers might want to think about amending their well being and security insurance policies to replicate the necessity to help distant working workers with workstation assessments.


Employers ought to be certain that workers have the mandatory tools to work safely on a distant foundation. This sometimes will embrace offering applicable pc screens and ergonomic chairs. Employers ought to focus on tools and expertise with workers, agree on what is required and assist them in establishing instruments to fulfill their wants.

Worker psychological well being

A distant working surroundings can current a danger to staff who are suffering from psychological well being points, as distant working typically means much less private interplay than is perhaps anticipated within the workplace, resulting in isolation and potential misery. Employers are due to this fact inspired to place in place procedures to allow them to maintain in direct contact with dwelling staff and to recognise indicators of stress as early as potential. Managers must be approachable and out there and encourage workforce members to speak if they’re having issues.

Contractual administrative center

Employers implementing full-time distant working might want to think about workers’ contractual administrative center. It’s unlikely to be essential to situation recent employment contracts, however contracts might have to be assorted to characterize an worker’s right fundamental administrative center in the event that they transfer to full-time distant working.

Staff who can work remotely could also be eager to work internationally and fluidly. Nonetheless, this will likely give rise to a number of issues that may have to be addressed by each workers and employers. Particularly, there are private and company tax points that have to be taken under consideration, and employers should be certain that these are given cautious consideration to keep away from surprising liabilities. Moreover, workers altering the jurisdiction from which they work might give rise to varied employment legislation, information safety and regulatory points. For instance, an worker might acquire employment rights from one other jurisdiction which could possibly be extra beneficial to the rights offered beneath the legislation of their dwelling nation. Additional, employers might discover that relevant regulatory necessities don’t allow workers to undertake sure work on a long-term foundation outdoors of the regulated jurisdiction. As such, employers ought to fastidiously think about these points earlier than permitting an worker to work remotely from a special jurisdiction than their dwelling location. Certainly, many employers are more likely to implement insurance policies that expressly present that such practices won’t be permitted on a long-term foundation.

Storing info and information safety

Employers ought to think about whether or not dwelling staff want particular coaching on their obligations regarding information safety and confidentiality. Employers must also perform a knowledge privateness impression evaluation of the info safety implications of workers working from dwelling. The EU Normal Knowledge Safety Regulation (Regulation (EU) No. 2016/679) requires that corporations maintain private information personal and safe no matter the place their workers are working.

Employers might also want to assessment and revise their IT safety insurance policies to account for long-term distant working. To safeguard delicate information, corporations ought to be certain that all gadgets utilized by their workers for work are encrypted. Firms are additionally really useful to determine a digital personal community if they don’t have already got one in place.

Insurance coverage

Employers ought to verify that their employers’ legal responsibility insurance coverage covers workers working remotely. This can be so simple as reviewing the definition of ‘coated employee’ within the insurance coverage coverage. If the suitable insurance coverage cowl shouldn’t be in place, employers ought to converse with their insurer or dealer within the first occasion. Employers won’t want to danger being with out cowl if an worker is injured whereas working from dwelling. Staff must also verify with their mortgage suppliers or landlords and their dwelling insurers that there isn’t a impression on their private insurance policies on account of them working from dwelling on a long-term foundation and make applicable changes if essential.

Managers figuring out issues and mitigating dangers

Groups working remotely pose explicit challenges to managers whose function it’s to supervise the people working inside them. Managers might want to make a concerted effort to communicate with their groups and to make sure that any considerations are escalated.

Managers must be skilled on any new covid-19 protocols and insurance policies (eg, which workers could also be classed as weak and methods to implement any new well being and security measures). Managers might also want refresher coaching on methods to conduct tough conversations and on resolving conflicts within the office and remotely. Managers should know the place to find firm sources in order that they will inform themselves and level workers to such supplies as essential.

Cases of whistle-blowing might show more difficult for managers to cope with when working remotely. It will be important that managers are clear concerning the course of for coping with considerations and notify workers.

It is usually advisable to encourage managers to have a good time success with their groups and to advertise well-being actions to instil a wholesome and productive workforce. They need to set real looking deadlines and workloads and be inspired to have open discussions with their groups about hours of labor, expectations and bounds.

Managers must also be alert to any potential bullying or harassment points. Communication may be tougher on a distant foundation, and there may be extra room for misinterpretation that may result in battle between colleagues and misunderstandings between managers and their direct reviews. There have additionally been many reviews of sexual harassment during times of distant working, as workers touch upon colleagues’ appearances on-line and have larger entry to their private settings. Managers must be alive to those points and be certain that workers are knowledgeable about applicable requirements of behaviour, and act if any considerations are raised.

Monitoring workers

There have been reviews of employers more and more utilizing synthetic intelligence applied sciences to hold out administration features, and additional applied sciences, resembling surveillance software program, to watch workers working remotely within the wake of covid-19 pandemic. Because the variety of workers working from dwelling on a long-term foundation will increase, that is more likely to be accompanied by larger use of expertise to watch workers and make administration choices. Employers might want to train warning as they implement any distant monitoring of workers, taking into consideration relevant information privateness legal guidelines.


Staff could also be entitled to assert a deduction in opposition to taxable earnings for extra family bills incurred on account of frequently working from dwelling beneath relevant native legal guidelines. Sometimes, these bills should be incurred wholly, completely and essentially within the efficiency of their employment duties, though the precise guidelines will fluctuate relying on the rules within the related jurisdiction. Employers ought to guarantee they’re conscious of the relevant guidelines and might meet their obligations on this respect.

Set clear expectations

It will be important for employers with massive numbers of workers working remotely to construct wholesome relationships with such personnel, primarily based on belief and confidence. This contains agreeing on issues resembling when workers must be out there, how they are going to communicate, how work-life stability will probably be managed and the way efficiency will probably be measured.


There may be little doubt that enforced distant working throughout the covid-19 pandemic has prompted a seismic shift for a lot of employers, the impression of which can final for the foreseeable future. There are lots of vital issues for employers to take into consideration as they navigate the brand new regular of working practices. The problem for employers is to make sure that they reply positively to those adjustments, in a method that works for his or her organisation and sector, guaranteeing that relevant native legal guidelines are adhered to and that expectations are clear for all concerned. Being adaptable and attentive to workers’ expectations, whereas sustaining a powerful firm tradition and model, will probably be elementary to turning into an employer of selection in a post-pandemic world.

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