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

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?

KG, Preston

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.

moneyagonyaunt.com

Independent Partners; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown

Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm today
News
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
Sport
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
News
Billie Whitelaw was best known for her close collaboration with playwright Samuel Beckett, here performing in a Beckett Trilogy at The Riverside Studios, Hammersmith
people'Omen' star was best known for stage work with Samuel Beckett
PROMOTED VIDEO
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Carlton Senior Appointments: Private Banking Manager - Intl Bank - Los Angeles

    $200 - $350 per annum: Carlton Senior Appointments: Managing Producer – Office...

    Carlton Senior Appointments: San Fran - Investment Advisor – Ind Advisory Firm

    $125 - $225 per annum: Carlton Senior Appointments: San Fran - Investment Advi...

    Sheridan Maine: Commercial Finance Manager

    Up to £70,000 per annum + benefits: Sheridan Maine: Are you a qualified accoun...

    Sheridan Maine: Regulatory Reporting Accountant

    Up to £65,000 per annum + benefits: Sheridan Maine: Are you a qualified accoun...

    Day In a Page

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
    The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

    The 12 ways of Christmas

    We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
    Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

    The male exhibits strange behaviour

    A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
    Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

    Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

    Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

    The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'