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Although many employers are exploring ongoing hybrid and remote working arrangements, some may be considering how they might incentivise employees to return to offices. Brian Palmer looks at the legal risks that could arise from offering financial and career rewards to office workers over home workers.
Government advice to work from home where possible was officially revoked on 19 July 2021 and, for many, a gradual return to offices is expected over the coming weeks.
The basic legal position is that all employees who are contractually obliged to work from the office can be required to do so. However, it seems clear that Covid-19 will remain a societal issue for some time and will continue to affect employers’ statutory, common law and contractual duties in respect of health and safety – notably the requirement to take reasonable care for the safety of their employees and provide a suitable working environment.
Many employees have spent 16 months away from the office, so there may be concerns and reluctance about returning, particularly for those having to use crowded public transport.
Rather than immediately trying to compel employees to return, some employers are giving employees some degree of choice in how often they work from the office. They are also staggering the return in a piecemeal way to offer employees a more gradual transition back to office life.
However, employers are also looking into incentives to make the return to the office more appealing. Bloomberg has