Consumer Rights: Don't let this backlash deter you from asking to work from home
Criticisms by big names of remote staff should not stop you requesting flexible hours, so long as you have the technology and are self-disciplined
Saturday 09 March 2013
Marissa Mayer, the boss of Yahoo, has told 11,500 employees to come back to the office or quit. Alexandra Shulman, the editor of British Vogue, refuses all requests to work from home because she believes in "the collective creativity of the office". And just when we've got all the technology – mobile devices, Skype, video-conferencing, cloud computing – to allow us to work any time, anywhere.
Twenty years ago forecasters convinced us that working from home was the way of the future. They said employers would want to reduce office space and keep costs down. In turn we'd cut out the commute and be there when the children got home from school. As with predictions about the paperless office, the cashless society and robots, it has only partially panned out. Unless we run a business from the back bedroom most of us still go into the office most of the time because the boss never quite learned to trust us and we miss the office politics. And if Ms Shulman and Ms Mayer are anything to go by, there's a bit of a backlash building against flexible working.
If you are a carer for someone you have a legal right to ask for flexible working. Anyone else can ask, but the employer doesn't have to agree. If your request is refused your boss should write to you with the reasons for a refusal, an explanation about how flexible working affects their business, and telling you how to appeal. Employers can refuse if there are good business reasons – they wouldn't be able to meet customer demand, for example, or there would be extra costs that would damage the business.
Of course, if you're eligible for parental leave you can take time off unpaid to look after your children, even if your request for flexible working is turned down.
Working from home takes discipline. Set boundaries, goals and limits, and rule your working space out of bounds to others. On the other hand, don't over-work to alleviate your guilt. Set regular working hours and stick to them.
Dress as you would for the office. You'll work better if you're dressed for the part and are sitting up straight rather than slouching in your dressing gown.
There are very few financial perks to working from home apart from reduced travel expenses, and if you don't keep careful checks and your employer refuses to contribute to your extra expenses you could end up out of pocket.
If you have no choice but to work from home you can get tax relief for extra expenses such as the cost of heating and lighting your work area and for business phone calls. You can't get relief on things you would pay anyway, such as your mortgage or council tax, or for expenses that relate to both business and private use, such as your telephone line rental or internet access.
Currently you don't need to provide records for expenses claims up to £4 a week or £18 a month. For amounts above that you will need bills and receipts to show the amount you are claiming is accurate.
Q: I have lived with my parents in our council flat all my life. After dad died I took care of mum. She died at the end of last year. The council has confirmed I am now the legal tenant. But as the flat has more than one bedroom and I'm living by myself they say I may have to move to a smaller flat. I'm working and paying most of the rent myself but do get some housing benefit. Can they make me move?
A: Unfortunately you are caught in new housing benefit rules that come into force next month. Then the amount of benefit households are entitled to will be reduced if they have unoccupied bedrooms they don't need. But in your case, after a bereavement, you will have a year's grace.
About 660,000 households which previously had all their rent covered by housing benefit will have to pay an average of £14 a week towards their rent if they want to stay in their homes. The alternative is to move to smaller properties, under the new rules applying to working age claimants.
If there is a housing advice centre near you or a law centre, see them immediately.
Independent Partners; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
Nigel Farage's approval rating hits 'record low' as popularity suffers in wake of Ukip sex scandal
Pakistan school attack live: Taliban kill at least 132 children in 'horrifying' massacre
Sony hack: Angelina Jolie branded 'seriously out of her mind' in further embarrassing leaked email saga
Panic Saturday: 13 million Britons spend £1.2bn – while 13 million others across the country live in poverty unable to afford food
iJobs Money & Business
$200 - $350 per annum: Carlton Senior Appointments: Managing Producer Office...
$125 - $225 per annum: Carlton Senior Appointments: San Fran - Investment Advi...
Up to £70,000 per annum + benefits: Sheridan Maine: Are you a qualified accoun...
Up to £65,000 per annum + benefits: Sheridan Maine: Are you a qualified accoun...
Day In a Page
A three-bedroom villa with self-contained flat, minutes from Lake Windermere
A deceptively spacious, beautifully presented Georgian home with 3000sq ft of living space and five reception rooms
A five-bedroom Victorian home with four receptions, superb gardens and paddock in Pembury
An eight-bedroom house on the south side of the The Green with cinema, wine cellars and summer house
This 17th century beauty is full of rustic cosiness, while the detached home office means you can also run a business
This five-bedroom red-brick beauty overlooks the village green and sits in just under two acres of land
Four exclusive apartments in a Grade II-listed former medical school with 2,275 sq ft of living space and 18ft ceilings
A five-bedroom terraced house on the popular Peterborough Estate, ideally located for both Eel Brook Common and South Park
A state-of-the-art farm-building conversion on the former Cliveden Estate, with 11,420sq ft of internal space, cinema and wine cellar
A three-bedroom, 15th-century cottage with original features in the picturesque village of Sissinghurst
A six-bedroom terraced house with large south-facing roof terrace, cinema room and wine cellar
A new seven-bedroom home built in Queen Anne-style with swimming pool and parkland views in Mortimer
A listed, four-bedroom farmhouse in the rural hamlet of Rushall with detached barn, four acres of gardens and paddocks
A first-floor flat with two bedrooms, a spacious reception room and communal grounds in a leafy part of London
A three-bedroom flat with a spacious rootop terrace and balcony, accessed from a private gated courtyard
A Grade II-listed pile with six bedrooms, stables and 39 acres of grounds in Standlake
A two-bedroom flat with boutique hotel-style interiors, close to the foodie haunt of West End Lane
A two-bedroom flat in a beautiful old vicarage, with many original features, close to the city centre
A three-bedroom 16th-century home with an aga kitchen, private gardens and heated outdoor pool, in Hadleigh
A three-bedrom home in sought-after Queen's Gate Mews, with Italian marble-finished bathrooms
Surrounded by glorious countryside in the village of Udimore, sits this impressive four-kiln oast and barn conversion
A five-bedroom house in the picturesque village of Kettlewell, north Yorkshire
An 18th-century former coaching inn with original staircase, open fireplaces and beams throughout
A Grade II-listed Georgian town house with three bedrooms and a south-facing courtyard, near Arundel Castle
Feel on top of the world at this über chic penthouse on the 37th floor of one of Europe’s tallest blocks.
A Grade II-listed Victorian villa with six bedrooms and two further cottages, all with spectacular sea views
A grade II-listed, Georgian cottage with mature 50ft garden, perfect for summer entertaining
A magnificent Georgian pile with turrets, seven bedrooms, a heated pool and four acres of gardens
Fairoak Farm has five bedroom suites, gym, outdoor swimming pool and golf course
Chic two-bedroom river-fronted flat with a private lift that delivers you directly to your home
A spectacular seven-bedroom Tudor pile, once owned by Henry VIII, with 18 acres of land
A seven-bedroom Georgian property previously used as a picturesque wedding venue
A split-level flat in a church conversion with two en suite bedrooms and 1,200sq ft of living space
A three-bedroom bungalow situated behind an impressive stone wall, £645,000
Windsor Castle overlooks this three-bedroom Victorian cottage located on one of Windsor's smartest roads
Chapel House is a former vicarage with nine bedrooms in the beautiful Upper Wye Valley
A five-bedroom B&B and separate owner's accomodation with potential for conversion
Enjoy summer by the Thames in this two double-bedroom converted warehouse in Rotherhithe village
A one-bedroom, luxury apartment with private gym and concierge service in Moorgate
A four-bedroom house in Hermitage Gardens with three reception rooms and landscaped gardens