The ONS is reporting that around 40% of workers are currently working from home (WFH). In
this article we explore some of the issues employers need to be aware of with increased
numbers of employees WFH, from a financial, legal and health and safety perspective.
This rise of home working has highlighted the issue of WFH allowances and expenses. In a recent
case in Switzerland an employee made a claim through the Swiss courts for financial support with
costs associated with home working. She was successful, an indication that during the global
pandemic employees and employers are having to turn their minds to these issues and that courts are
recognising that employees have genuine additional expenses associated with home working. The
case is obviously not legally binding on the UK in any way, but it does suggest that employers should
consider how they will deal with the issue of the expenses an employee incurs when working from
There are of course low-level tax breaks for employees who work from home in place already but to
claim any more than a notional £6 per week can be reasonably labour intensive for your average
employee. For employers who want to stand out in this area, being proactive and creating an
attractive package for employees who WFH will be key.
An example of an organisation that is proactively supporting its employees while they work from home
is Google. Google are offering staff $1,000 to purchase office furniture while they work from home.
This makes sense. If employees are working from home, communicating from home and their
workspaces feature in video calls, you want to still project a professional image to clients and
suppliers. Expenses or allowances that allow employees to carry out home improvements and
suchlike are a worthwhile investment for employers. And with reduced office costs (likely to be an
outcome of the pandemic with more employees working from home) subsidies could be offered to
employees from this perspective.
At Turning Point HR Solutions, we can carry out allowance and expense benchmarking exercises for you to explore how your comparators are dealing with this issue and we can also advise on general norms and benefits packages tailored to employees who are based from home. Contact us here for this service
There are also legal issues around entitlements for staff that work in the office compared with those
that work from home. The first issue might be one of parity – does the home worker have access to all
of the ‘perks’ that an office worker has access to? While fairness and reasonableness are general
principles of UK employment law, absolute parity is not legally required. As long as the reason for any
difference in treatment is not linked to a protected characteristic (either directly or indirectly), treating
employees who work from home differently to those that are based in the office is not unlawful. That
said, particular care should be taken around those employees who choose to work from home
because of a disability related reason and reasonable adjustments should be considered for these
Notwithstanding the fact that absolute parity is not legally required, it makes sense from an employee
relations and engagement perspective, particularly where large proportions of staff are working from
home, to offer similar or alternative perks, where possible. A typical example might be free tea and
coffee or fruit that employees who are based in the office have access to. Employers could send out
attractive packages of tea, coffee, biscuits and suchlike to employees based at home – the cynic
might say that the PR and marketing opportunities are endless with this approach. But all these
individual parcels are likely to cost more than the cost of the bulk supplies to the office. These
increased costs could be offset against fewer desks, smaller offices, less rent and rates and reduced
Another legal issue is the right to request to work from home. Does an employee have this and is an
employer required to agree to this? Requesting to work from home is already possible in the UK
under existing flexible working legislation. Employees are entitled to make a request to work a
different work pattern or at a different location (including working from home). The employer has the
right to refuse the request on specific business grounds. However, flexible working requests have
plateaued in the last few years, and prior to the lockdown coming into force, a government taskforce
had been set up to look at ways to increase the uptake of flexible working in the UK.
It certainly seems anecdotally, that the feedback around mass working from home has been positive in the short term. It would seem that this would lend weight to employees’ requests to work from home, and it will be interesting to see if the recent situation has an impact on the government’s review and whether an employee who wishes to work from home is given any additional routes to request this.
Health and Safety Issues
Health and safety is also relevant for those working from home permanently. Current legislation
allows employers to treat temporary working from home differently to permanent working from home.
Fundamentally, companies should consider the following:
We are able to offer you a free home working assessment, conducted by Amarisk.
Click on this link for a free home worker assessment.
We are in a genuine time of change, from how the market is responding to the economically driven
reduction in head count and from the need to review how we work with one another, post pandemic.
Turning Point HR Solutions Ltd are able to provide live market data and up to the minute trend
If you would like to talk to one of our consultants, please contact us here