The Workers Union is calling for an ‘employee-focused’ approach to home working.
In a statement released today, a spokesperson for the organisation said: ‘The current situation with the Omicron variant of COVID-19 is causing many people to question whether it is still safe to go into work. Although different recommendations are in operation in other parts of the UK, the government has yet to encourage home working in England. We believe that there is a strong case for home working where possible; both to lessen the potential implications for the NHS and reduce the possibility of lockdowns.’
Barring some contractual or health exemptions, workers are currently required to return to the workplace if required to do so by their employers. Staff can have requests to remain or become home-based rejected if there’s a justifiable business reason for doing so. However, there are certain protocols that must be observed. Chief amongst them is the obligation on employers to ensure that places of work are safe. If a company has over 50 employees, it must also publish risk assessments on its corporate site.
In spite of these requirements, some employees have told The Workers Union that the unknowns around Omicron are making them nervous about continuing to work in close proximity to other staff. Reasons cited include not knowing how effective the current range of vaccines are against new variants, and, in some cases, worries about the COVID security of their employer’s premises.
The Workers Union Says
The latest developments in the pandemic should push companies to seriously consider drawing up new agreements with individuals. These would offer the flexibility to deliver a better work/life balance, but, crucially they would also make automatic provision for home working where threats to employee safety have been identified. Yes, direction from government would certainly be welcome, but employers should see the current situation as a break from the past and an echo of the future.
The workplace of tomorrow will not see bleary-eyed commuters herded into brightly-lit offices for eight hours a day. Rather, the companies that recruit and retain the best staff will be the ones that innovate to create vibrant, progressive cultures amongst distributed teams.
The pandemic has brought this ever closer to reality – now it is up to forward-thinking enterprises to adapt before it’s too late.