Brits may be given freedom to work from home FOREVER or whenever they choose under plans to make flexi-working permanent
BRITS may be given the freedom to work from home forever under plans to make flexi-working permanent.
Home offices and Zoom meetings could remain the norm even after the pandemic as the government looks set to give office workers more choice in where and when they work.
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The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy is expected to look at extending the existing flexible working rights later this year.
Current rules mean employees can request changes in working patterns and employers must deal with these in a "reasonable manner" within three months.
Ministers may also extend the existing scheme further by introducing the right to request ad hoc flexible working, meaning Brits can change their hours to when it suits them.
It would give thousands of employees the freedom to make appointments during the working day and have more control over their diaries.
Sources told The Times that some government figures want to enshrine a simple legal right to work from home.
In 2019, the Conservative manifesto promised the party would "encourage flexible working and consult on making it the default unless employers have good reasons not to".
But Covid has meant these plans have been been put to one side.
Under current official coronavirus restrictions, "everyone who can work from home must do so".
The guidance is in place until at least June 21 across England in a bid to stop the resurgence of Covid cases.
A minister told The Times: "Covid has moved the flexible working agenda on years.
"As we recover from lockdown there’s lots we can do to keep the freedoms people have gained to set their own working patterns."
Almost half of working adults are spending at least some of their time working from home, according to recent research by the Office for National Statistics.
Before the pandemic it was just five per cent.
It has seen city centres empty, with a devastating impact on businesses which rely on office worker customers.
But announcing his roadmap out of Covid lockdown, the Prime Ministerdismissed permanent home working.
And speaking at a virtual rail industry conference, Boris Johnson said: "I know that some people may imagine that all conferences are going be like this, held over Zoom, Teams or what have you and we've got to prepare for a new age in which people don't move around, do things remotely, they don't commute any more.
"I don't believe it. Not for a moment. In a few short months, if all goes to plan, we in the UK are going to be reopening our economy."
He also said during a Downing Street press conference: "I don’t believe this is going to mean a fundamental change to the way our life in our big cities really works.
"The better remote communication gets and the more people can see each other and talk on mobile devices, the more actually they want to see each other face to face.
"And that, I’m sure, will come back and I think that London, our great cities, will be full of buzz and life and excitement again, provided that people have confidence about going back into those city centres."
A government spokesperson said: "We have committed to consult on making flexible working the default unless employers have good reasons not to. This consultation will be launched in due course."
Several major employers have already announced plans to allow flexible working.
Howard Dawber, head of strategy at Canary Wharf in London, said some of the 120,000 employees who work in offices in the key business hub could split their time between working from home and the office.
He said: "Where the technology makes it possible to work from home, I think the processes and attitudes of businesses have caught up now to the point where I think it's going to be more socially acceptable to take the occasional day working from home.
"So it may well be that some people may have a desk at Canary Wharf but choose to work from home one day a week or a couple of days a month, and that's a good thing.
"We've got to the point where there is fatigue out there.
"Working from home last year when the sun was shining and people were perhaps enjoying a more flexible environment, there was a sense it was going to be a short-term process and we would get through it and return to work.
"I think now people are missing that opportunity to collaborate and just see their friends in the office and to do all the life admin things you can do in a city centre."
And Twitter told its staff last year they can work from home "forever" if they wish.
But Goldman Sachs boss David Solomon said working from home would never become the "new normal".
"That's a temporary thing," he said in a virtual conference organised by Credit Suisse.
"I do think that for a business like ours, which is an innovative, collaborative apprenticeship culture, this is not ideal for us."
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