How to work from home without breaking the bank

... and what can you do if your boss wants to cut your pay to work remotely?

Rebecca Goodman
Wednesday 06 October 2021 07:00
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<p>Women are among those most likely to work from home</p>

Women are among those most likely to work from home

You’re doing your job but not in the office, so is it fair for your pay to be cut?

Some businesses are proposing pay cuts for home workers but what’s the legal position and how are workers’ finances affected by staying at home?

Before March last year, working from home was something to do on rare occasions if you were lucky. But after everything changed when the coronavirus pandemic hit, it’s now become the norm for many.

A year ago, shortly after “Eat out to help out” ended, employees were encouraged back to workplaces only to return home during the November lockdown.

Women, and those working in information and communications or those in London and in professional occupations, were most likely to have worked from home, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Businesses are also able to save a significant amount of money if they no longer need to rent, or own, large city-centre offices.

Many big companies including Twitter, Google, PwC and Nationwide have said staff will be working from home permanently, either fully or part-time.

But it is a topic which divides opinion.

Plenty of studies show that women have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic and a major reason for working for home is childcare.

Mothers were 47 per cent more likely to have permanently lost or quit their jobs, according to The Institute for Fiscal Studies and the UCL Institute of Education.

It has allowed many parents to continue working and be able to pick up their children from school or nursery. It’s also saved commuters money and time.

However, the other side of the argument is that working from home, on a full-time basis, is bad for employees, especially younger people, and that it encourages people to slack off, although the ONS research showed that those working from home usually work an average of six hours overtime a week, compared with three in the workplace.

Last week, the Department for Business, Enterprise and Industrial Strategy launched a consultation on a Flexible Working Bill to let employees ask for flexible working from their first day in a job, rather than having to wait six months.

But there’s clearly not a one-size-fits-all solution, especially for those in jobs in which they can’t work from home.

If you are working from home and your employer has said you’ll receive a pay cut for doing so, where do you stand legally?

Karen Jackson, a solicitor specialising in disability discrimination in employment and MD of law firm Didlaw, said: “It is open to employers to cut pay for people working from home, there is no law against it, however they can only do so with the express consent of the employee because this is a contract variation.

“An employer cannot unilaterally change a contract of employment to terms that are less favourable without the written consent of the employee. This needs to be agreed and in writing otherwise reducing pay will be an unlawful deduction from wages.”

Another area where workers may be able to work from home is if they are disabled. Ms Jackson says many disabled workers have been able to work because they haven’t had to commute and, therefore, may be reluctant, or unable, to go back to the office.

“Provided such people can demonstrate that there is a substantial disadvantage to them in not being allowed to work from home and that the ability to work from home has a good prospect of alleviating that disadvantage then it will be incumbent on employers to allow them to work from home,” she said.

If you are working from home, your travelling costs may have gone down but other costs, such as for energy could have gone up. Working from home means using more electricity and heating and higher energy bills.

However, there are some tax breaks. You can claim up to £125 from HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) for the expense of working from home. It’s easy to apply online and you don’t need to have been working from home full time to qualify.

Most companies will also allow workers supplies they might need such as a desk, office chair, a monitor or laptop. It’s worth asking your employer what is on offer if you haven’t already.

If you need to see clients at your home this may increase your insurance risk and you might need to change your home insurance policy or pay a higher premium. If this applies to you, give your insurer a call to make sure you’re still properly covered.

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