Statistics show that regular working from home in the UK has tripled since before the pandemic, suggesting that more employers are open to the benefits that remote working can offer.
Analysis of Q4 2021 labour force survey data by the TUC, released on National Work from Home Day (20 May), found that 22.4% of workers were working from home regularly in 2021, up from 6.8% in 2019 and 12.1% in 2020.
The statistics on regular working from home showed similar rates among men and women, ethnic minority and white workers, and workers with and without disabilities. However, the union body warned that it should not be assumed that all experiences of home working are equal, suggesting that women are more likely to juggle work and childcare than men, for example.
It also cautioned against assuming that everyone who wants to work from home is now able to, and suggested that some employers were denying employees’ homeworking requests without good reason.
There was significant variation in working from home rates across regions, the statistics showed. The porportion of people working from home regularly was highest in London (29.7%), the South East (25.5%) and Scotland (22.4%), and lowest in Northern Ireland (11.7%), the North East (16.1%) and the East Midlands (19.2%).
Regular homeworking was more prevalent in some sectors than others. The communications sector had the highest rate of regular home workers (58.9%), followed by finance (46.5%), and professional, technical, and scientific roles (43.2%). It was less common in accommodation and food services (3.2%), retail (9.2%) and transport (9.5%).
A TUC survey in June 2021 found that people in higher-paid occupations were much more likely to be working from home during the pandemic (60%) than those in blue-collar roles (23%).
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “While homeworking has grown, people in jobs that can’t be done from home have been left behind. They deserve access to flexible working too. And they need new rights to options like flexitime, predictable shifts, and job shares.
“Homeworkers also need better legal protection. It’s great that some employers are much more supportive now, but many others are still behind the times, turning down homeworking requests without good reason.
“The government promised to modernise employment law to make flexible working options the norm for every job. But Boris Johnson has cancelled plans for an employment bill this year. And it is mostly people in working-class jobs who are left out. That’s not fair – ministers must step up and do what they promised.”
Phil Flaxton, chief executive at Work Wise UK, said: “Following the global pandemic, the landscape of how, when and where we work has changed dramatically and many employees will continue to balance work between their place of work and home, known as hybrid working.
“However, it is vital that the UK does not become a nation of those can and those who cannot work flexibly. National Work from Home Day provides an opportunity for employers to start conversations with their staff on new ways of working. Working people need a say on what works for them – and what doesn’t.
“These new approaches cannot be a ‘one size fits all’. Employers, trade unions and the government must work together to ensure that those who cannot work remotely are not excluded from modern flexible working practices.”
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