Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, whilst recently speaking at the British Chambers of Commerce’s Global Annual Conference 2023, commented that the ‘default’ location for workers should be in the office unless there is a ‘good reason to work from home’.

Hunt noted that, while working remotely had produced ‘exciting opportunities’, he was worried about ‘the loss of creativity’ when people are permanently working from home, and ‘not having those water cooler moments’ where people bounce ideas off each other.

Flexible and remote working has become the norm for many workers since the pandemic, but there has been a split across different sectors since lockdown restrictions eased.

Some organisations required staff to return to the workplace completely; some allowed for a permanent working from home (‘WFH’) arrangement; whilst many opted for a ‘hybrid’ model, where employees come into offices on certain (agreed) days and work remotely on others.

Not surprisingly, despite Hunt’s comments on the problems associated with home working, many tech and online companies, such as Apple, Amazon, and Telefonica, are keen to encourage a flexible and remote workforce.

Additionally, many roles – such as those in the medical profession, teaching profession, and hospitality sector – simply can’t consider anything other than working on site, due to practicalities and their clientele (with the exception of online/telephone appointments, online tutoring etc).

A recent survey found that, as of May 2023, 39% of workers in Great Britain are working from home at least once a week.

A recent study found that 1 in 5 Brits wants to work full time remotely, but conversely, 1 in 5 workers struggle with loneliness when working from home, and 3 in 10 Brits find it hard to separate their home lives from their work lives.

Additionally, people who earn under £20,000 per year have a less than 5% chance of being able to work remotely, whilst 94% of people earning over £50,000 per year can choose to work from home if they wish.

The average remote working Brit saves a total of £44.78 per week in commuting and lunch costs, and 5 hours in time when totalling average commuting times.

These statistics back up what we were all already aware of – namely that there are pros and cons to (exclusive) WFH and office working.

The obvious pros of WFH are increased flexibility; a time and cost saving on commuting, which, in turn, can allow for better (and longer) attendance and punctuality; and allowance for a more diverse workforce as organisations don’t lose workers who may otherwise need to leave and/or cut down employment, because the juggle and cost of caring responsibilities is too great.

The cons of WFH can, however, be increased loneliness; a loss of collaboration and integration into a workforce; increased costs to an employer in terms of the supply of home office equipment; increased distractions to the workforce and, in turn, the possibility of lower productivity.

Hybrid working has therefore become the preference for many organisations, as they try and maximise the benefits of flexibility and prioritising work/life balance in the interests of workforce wellbeing and diversity, whilst minimising the negative impacts WFH can have on a business and an individual’s mental health. Many organisations are also finding a ‘sweet spot’ on nominated days in the office, to encourage learning and development, collaboration, and building a team culture, with rules like ‘2/3 days in the office a minimum for FTE’ becoming the norm.

So, what does this all mean on a legal front, and are there any changes that you need to make before changing the way your workforce currently works?

Things to consider:

1. Type of organisation

Firstly, as already set out, whether WFH and/or hybrid working is even possible will completely depend on the nature of your organisation. In the NHS, exclusive WFH is not really feasible for Doctors, Nurses and/or Health Care Assistants, however, hybrid working may be possible when it comes to administrative tasks that these individuals need to undertake, such as writing up clinical/patient notes, preparing rotas, and personal development/online course attendance. Managerial posts in the NHS are also more likely to be able to adopt home working and/or hybrid working, provided there is still on on-site ‘presence’.

2. Contracts and policies

Secondly, you need to consider what is allowed for under the existing contractual terms (including via custom and practice) and policies, to consider whether it is already covered, or if you need to create or amend such documentation/arrangements – with the usual consultation also applied. A well-written policy provides clarity, and consistency amongst the workforce, and avoids claims for unfairness, and potentially even discrimination.

3. Health and safety

Health and safety for those WFH is still your responsibility as an employer. That therefore means keeping in touch with employees as to their working arrangements to ensure they are not working too much, or in the wrong environment, with the wrong equipment.

As an employer, you are not under a legal obligation to provide your employees with equipment when they are WFH. However, the government advises employers to “do what they can” to assist employees with home working and so, in the interests of being a reasonable employer, you may therefore want to consider the provision of equipment, or an allowance towards home working equipment, for those WFH.

This can also help in ensuring that staff are kept in good physical health and/or that staff do not sustain work related injuries, by, say, leaning over cramped desks, or sitting in inappropriate chairs. Further, it allows the employer to retain some control when it comes to issues like data and cyber security, if they have provided things like IT equipment and data storage facilities.

4. Managing and supporting

When your employees work from home, you may need to rethink managing and supporting them. This can include things like how they manage their time, providing training and development, encouraging work-life balance, providing for wider office/team support, interaction, and social events, and finding ways to maintain motivation and avoiding general distractions. Considering things like regular 121s, and whether they should be in person, or virtual, are important, to ensure that the remote workforce is not forgotten, or under prioritised.

5. Fair and non-discriminatory treatment

All staff need to be treated in a fair and non-discriminatory manner, regardless of where or how they work (i.e full time, part time, flexibly).

Staff that are WFH still need to be offered the same development, training and promotion opportunities, access to representatives and staff meetings, as well as general support, communication and management.

Decisions on a role should not be made simply because of where or how someone works, as to do so could be classed as unfair and/or discriminatory if based on a protected characteristic (i.e. indirect sex discrimination).

6. Tax, expenses and benefits

As an employer, you are responsible for reporting to HMRC specific tax and national insurance issues concerning staff home working expenses. Home working expenses can include, but are not limited to, the equipment you provide to staff.


In summary, irrespective of the comments made by the likes of Jeremy Hunt, post-pandemic we live in a world where work is never going to go back to the traditional model of workers being solely site based, unless, of course, necessitated by job role or clientele.

This, together with the increased need for flexible working in modern society, to ensure better work/life balance, more of a diverse workforce and increased caring responsibilities amongst workers, means that employers need to think outside the ‘traditional blueprint’ to a more dynamic, adaptable model. What an employer cannot forget, in doing this, is its legal responsibilities and obligations.