Work from home policy ‘a muddle,’ Boris Johnson told

The government’s stance on working from home is a “muddle” and should be made “less ambiguous,” to help both employers and workers alike.

Baroness Morrissey, a former fund manager, issued this criticism yesterday saying that, amid new covid cases nearing 40,000 a day, it would be “helpful” if Number 10 clarified its ‘WFH’ policy for businesses.

But having removed the homeworking guidance on July 19th, the prime minister may feel that the message is clear already, especially as he subsequently said workplaces should “work it out for themselves.”

'Up to employers'

This approach of leaving it up to staff and employers mirrors the government’s stance on testing because, despite fatalities from covid returning to a level last seen in March, it is currently ‘up to employers to implement their own policies on testing to ensure transmission risks are mitigated,’ advises Brabners.

Reflecting on a four-day week being successfully trialled in Iceland, the law firm said that as UK employers move to update risk assessments and comply with self-isolation requirements, the key focus from bosses is now, “productivity rather presenteeism.”  

“Employers [are] concentrating much more on the question of whether their….[staff] are meeting their key deliverables, “ the firm says, “rather than on where and when the work is actually being done.”

'Pay for work done'

Online, a supporter of contractors endorsed the new results-orientated focus, but said that employers treating their staff more like self-employed should not be piecemeal.

“For all of those companies reducing the pay of people who don't come into the office, are you paying your suppliers to come in for meetings? Didn't think so,” said the supporter, referring to potential pay cuts for Google’s home workers, aside to cuts already in force for remote employees of Twitter and Facebook.

The supporter reiterated, almost in an online address to bosses: “Pay for work to be done, not being able to see someone working.”

'Productivity, well-being, work-life balance'

Data from the Office of National Statistics indicates that one quarter of workers are still working from home due to the pandemic, despite mixed experiences.

Although that 25% chunk has hardly moved since July 19th (when the official ‘WFH’ guidance was taken down), it is older workers who are more likely to press to stay remote.

In fact, versus their younger counterparts, such workers are more likely to prioritise working from home once the pandemic passes, according to the ONS.

Also more likely to be degree-holders than not, these older workers who switched to homeworking during the coronavirus pandemic emerged in the study as having 'better productivity, improved well-being and a more optimal work-life balance.'

'Emulate behaviour'

Younger workers are on the backfoot elsewhere too, notably from chancellor Rishi Sunak who last month suggested that the covid videocall generation may not succeed as he has.

Mr Sunak, formerly of Goldman Sachs said: “I doubt I would have had those strong relationships if I was doing my summer internship or my first bit of my career over Teams and Zoom.”

Stephen Bird, chief executive of investment giant abrdn (formerly Standard Life Aberdeen), has endorsed the sentiment from the Treasury boss, reportedly saying remote working denies the chance to ‘see people operating and emulate behaviour.’

The thumbs down to ‘WFH’ from the two financial heavyweights might explain the absence of a crystal clear policy on homeworking from Mr Johnson, who has spent the last four days at a family retreat in Somerset where, to head off criticism off an ill-timed break, aides said the PM ‘continued to work.’

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Written by Simon Moore

Simon writes impartial news and engaging features for the contractor industry, covering, IR35, the loan charge and general tax and legislation.
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