Ending WFH could be ‘illegal’


by Roisin Lanigan
17 June 2021, 12:01pm

WFH fans rejoice -- forcing people to return to work in person after the pandemic could soon be ‘illegal’ thanks to new plans being considered by the British government. In fact, millions of office staff across the UK could be afforded a ‘default’ right to continue working from home when restrictions finally end, according to reports coming from Whitehall today.

As lockdowns end, vaccinations increase and the world cautiously begins to open up again, the conversation around work -- and the end of pandemic-mandated WFH orders -- has become… tricky. Increasingly, employers (and office landlords!) are keen to get everyone back to in-person working full time, while many employees are less than enthusiastic to leave their new normal and return to packed early morning commutes, stale Pret a Manger baguettes, awkward small talk in the queue for the microwave and the pain of having to wear trousers to clock in for a shift. Heaven!

If that sounds like hell to you, then here’s the lowdown on the good news: the government plans to change the law to make it officially illegal for employers to insist on staff attending a workplace unless they can prove it’s essential. The leak on the plan came from a ‘Whitehall source’, who told the D*ily M*il -- we’re not linking out, go find it if you want -- that it’s all part of a government drive to promote flexible working over the summer, ahead of possible further legislation later this year.

“We are looking at introducing a default right to flexible working,” a source told the paper. “That would cover things like reasonable requests by parents to start late so they can drop their kids at childcare. But in the case of office workers in particular it would also cover working from home – that would be the default right unless the employer could show good reason why someone should not.”

It’s worth noting however -- not to bum you out -- that these are just plans and whether they’ll roll out officially is yet to be seen. Both Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak have been banging on about getting us all back into offices to save the high street for months now. Initially, the promised “Freedom Day”, which would have seen all restrictions in the UK lifted for good, was due to happen on Monday. With this now pushed back until July 19 (with the caveat, according to even more leaked plans which we will not be linking to, that workers will be told to work from home after that) the poor, maligned owners of Costa and Pret might just have to manage without us trudging to the office for a bit longer yet.

Hot girl summer has been activated, and as everyone knows, hot girls work from home. X

Follow i-D on Instagram and TikTok for more news.