WWhy should your employer pay if you are working from home? Your internet? An ergonomic chair? Heating and electricity? At a government agency where two-thirds of the staff work at home, an angry dispute erupted after the free broadband was removed.
The Care Quality Commission employs just over 3,000 staff, overseeing nursing homes, general practitioner services and hospitals across the UK. Due to its wide geographical distribution, most employees work at home, and until August of last year, CQC installed a separate broadband line at its employees' homes and paid the monthly bills.
But in what a CQC official calls an "arbitrary decision" that "fell like a lead balloon," the organization told the team that the company's paid broadband would be withdrawn by the end of March 2020. Instead, The agency offered a one-off “goodwill payment” of £ 230.
CQC says the reality is that most families now install their own broadband, so paying for it was no longer necessary.
“This was something we introduced when a separate line was needed and when broadband was not common in most families. For the vast majority of our colleagues (92% in 2018 said they already had a personal / home broadband line), this is now a doubling. We know that for the vast majority of people who already have unlimited broadband provided in their home, there will be no extra charge for them. "
The unions see it differently. A Unison spokesman, speaking on behalf of five unions, says: “CQC's plans to discontinue the provision of broadband to contract workers entitled to it has caused understandable concern among employees. The unions made their dissatisfaction clear to managers. "
Notably, there are very few rules about what organizations should provide and pay for when their employees work at home.
There are about 1.7 million employees working at home, according to search by TUC, a 27% increase over the past decade, with another 4 million saying they would work from home if their employer gave them the chance.
Phil Flaxton from Wise UK Commercial, a nonprofit that aims to promote smarter work practices, says there are no hard and fast rules about who should pay for what. “It comes down to the individual organization and nature of working at home. There will be people hired to work at home all the time, people who work one day a week at home, people who take the odd day every month and so on. Much of this comes down to the size of the organization: If you employ five people instead of 500, the dynamics will be very different. "
Flaxton cites BT as a big home-based employer, with about a tenth of its workforce working remotely. Many receive a grant to equip their home with an ergonomic chair, desk and laptop – and, unsurprisingly, it provides BT broadband.
Vodafone also encourages remote work, and employees approved for flexible work receive a mobile device, laptop and accessories, as well as a one-off payment of £ 250 "to help them set up their home office."
Glassdoor recruitment site has listed Skyscanner, the flight booking service, as the main employer for flexible jobs.
But not all employers, even some who once advocated "telecommuting," like home-based employees. In 2009, the computer giant IBM boasted that 40 percent of its 386,000 employees in 173 countries were working remotely, saving $ 2 billion in the cost of providing their own offices.
But by March 2017, IBM would have told thousands of its workers in the US that they would have to return to work place or lose job. While previously selling the "anytime, anywhere" workforce concept to other employers, the company said the move to bring employees back to the office would improve collaboration and speed up work.
One area where rules exist is the duty of employers to protect the health, safety and welfare of employed domestic workers. O Health & Safety Executive says: "If you employ domestic workers, you must perform a risk assessment of work activities and take appropriate measures to reduce the associated risks."
But this requirement is open to interpretation. Some large companies insist on sending an appraiser to examine working conditions if their employees are working full time at home. In one case, a Swiss multinational paid for an external fire escape to be installed in a home because its staff member was working in an attic transformed into a home office.
But most companies offer little more than the minimum, such as a questionnaire in which employees confirm that they are meeting basic seating and desk space requirements.
A gray area is homeworkers, perhaps one day a week or fortnight. A facility manager at an international company in London who wanted to remain anonymous says: “Many companies want to say that they offer flexible work arrangements. But many will only be giving the person a laptop without further evaluation. You still have a duty to take care of all employees regardless of where they are. My expectation is that you will soon see a lawsuit from a home-based employee who developed RSI or earlier issues. If the court finds it in your favor, there will be many changes. "