Can I recall employees back to the office?

  • Business Advice
Recalling home workers
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Peninsula Group, HR and Health & Safety Experts

(Last updated )

Working from home became a necessity for many during the Covid-pandemic and for scores of employees this continued long after the various lockdowns ended. Some high-profile employers, however, are now starting to order that employees return to the office, but can it be just as simple as telling your employees they need to come back or is there more to it than that.

The first point for employers to consider will be their employees’ terms and conditions of employment. If an employer wants to change where employees work which alters their terms, they will need to consult with them. There could be a risk of unfair dismissal and discrimination claims, in some circumstances, if such a change takes place without agreement. The procedure needed to do this is set to become more structured with the statutory code of practice on ‘fire and re-hire’, but this is yet to be written. 

Businesses will also need to consider the wider implications of any such change for staff retention and recruitment. More employees are seeking roles which give them flexibility so if a business decides to move away from this and require employees to work out of the office then they possibly will struggle to recruit and retain their staff.

If an employer wants to encourage employees back into the office, then looking at how they can assist with commuting costs is likely to be key. Could they offer discounted travel passes, cycle to work schemes, or could hybrid working be the middle ground so that employees spend some time at home and the rest of the week in the office?

Zoom, Meta, and Amazon are some of the companies who have recently announced that they expect employees to return to the office for some of the week. This hybrid model appears to therefore strike a good balance for many organisations and could allow employees and employers the best of both worlds.

Furthermore, whether employees can choose which days to come into the office or whether they will be told which days to come in will be another consideration for employers. If a certain proportion of employees work from home on certain days, then a business may be able to downsize and have smaller offices. However, employees are all unlikely to agree on the same days to work from home and the days to come into the workplace given personal circumstances and as commitments will vary.

There will be many differing opinions and it can consequently be a difficult situation for employers to navigate. Companies will need to consider their business and what works for them, but also balance this with how their employees want to work given they are such an intrinsic part of any company.  Given the divisive nature, such discussions will need to be handled sensitively and through meaningful consultation with employees.

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