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Shift to working from home risks opening ‘new class divide’, TUC warns

A move towards increased numbers of people working from home could lead to “a new class divide”, the TUC has warned.

The union umbrella group said that those who have been able to work from home during the pandemic may find it easier to achieve more flexible working in future while others have fewer options.

A new TUC report argues that employers should offer a range of different types of flexibility, not just working from home.

It cites job share arrangements, flexitime, term time-only hours, annualised or compressed hours, all of which allow people to fit other commitments such as childcare around their work.

The TUC said many more workers should have the right to set hours, to enable them to manage their other commitments, rather than having to make different arrangements every week when shifts are announced.

Figures published by the TUC to mark Friday’s Work From Home Day indicate that permanent home working may have doubled from 6.7 per cent in 2019 to 12.2 per cent in 2020.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “It’s likely that many workers will want to spend more time working from home than before, and it’s vital that employers have positive and constructive discussions with staff and unions about how to make this work.

“A sole focus on home working rights would create new inequalities for those who cannot easily work from home.

“All workers need stronger rights to the full range of flexible working options like flexitime, predictable shifts and job shares.

“The prime minister’s failure to include an employment bill in his legislative programme is a colossal failure to address the needs of working people. He must bring forward new rights to flexible working without delay.”

Ms O’Grady urged firms to consult with workers about a wider return to work expected after 21 June when the latest phase of ending the lockdown comes into effect.

Phil Flaxton, chief executive if Work Wise UK which organises Work From Home Day, said: “As the UK emerges from lockdown, the way we work may change. Will we end presenteeism, reduce commuting, use designated workspaces in homes, or make hybrid working across workplaces and homes the norm?

“National Work From Home Day provides an opportunity for employers to start conversations with their staff on future ways of working.

“Working people need a say on what works for them and what doesn’t. If their needs are respected, it could really help healthy changes that benefit the whole working population.”

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