With the pandemic and lockdown slowly receding into the past, the thorny issue of continuing to work from home, versus traipsing back the office, is creating a drama for some people.

The requirement to work from home during the coronavirus restrictions, has given people the opportunity to show, they can not only do their job just as well from home, but achieve a better work/life balance that wasn’t there before. A January 2022 YouGov survey found – 71% of those polled prefer working from home, and 59% ticked the box saying their productivity had increased.

Currently in the UK there is no legal right to work from home, nor to have any other type of other flexible working pattern, unless of course it is written into the employment contract.

You can however make a reasonable request to work in a flexible manner, and your employer should consider your request in a reasonable manner. It would not be legally acceptable for them to dismiss the request, without giving it reasonable thought and specifying the criteria for rejection.

Your right to ask for a variation on your current contract applies only to employees who have been employed for at least 26 weeks. You are allowed only to make one request in any 12 month period, and must be made in writing. For this to be properly evaluated, you need to state the change you are applying for – working from home or changes to hours, times, or the place of work. It must also contain an explanation of what effect this change will have on the employers business, and how this effect (if any) would be mitigated.

Your request can be refused by the employer, if it comes under one of 9 listed grounds as laid out in the legislation “Employment Rights Act 1996 Part 8A Flexible working”.

It states “shall only refuse the application because…….considers that one or more of the following grounds applies—
(i)   the burden of additional costs,
(ii)  detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand,
(iii) inability to re-organise work among existing staff,
(iv) inability to recruit additional staff,
(v)  detrimental impact on quality,
(vi) detrimental impact on performance,
(vii) insufficiency of work during the periods the employee proposes to work,
(viii) planned structural changes, and
(ix) such other grounds as the Secretary of State may specify by regulations.

In terms of whether you legally can work from home, is another matter. Most leases contain clauses that restrict or prohibit a property being used for anything except a residence, quite often stating it is for a single family’s use. There have also been reports of properties being purchased as an Airbnb, only to discover their lease prohibits them being rented out for less than periods of 6 month. Freehold titles also have restrictive clauses in them, so the tenant is bound by these as well. Working on a laptop from the dining room table doing the same job you would have done in an office is unlikely to cause any problems or be reported. Recent news articles have shown that traders who would normally use external premises for their trade like hair salons; nail bars could be violating the terms of their lease by operating in their homes. This is more likely to be noticed or reported if large numbers of customers arrive at the property during the day, which might make some traffic and parking problems. The obvious guidance is to check your lease and paperwork and consider asking your landlord; managing agent or get appropriate legal advice.