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Elon Musk caused a media whirlwind during his £38.1 billion takeover of Twitter, becoming the newly appointed Chief Executive. There are many employment law issues which have arisen from his handling of the takeover. However, in this article I will look at whether employers can revoke a policy which has allowed employees to work from home for a lengthy period of time.
Following the COVID-19 pandemic, we saw a landmark shift in businesses embracing remote working. However, some employers are now looking to dial back on remote working in favour of a hybrid and/or office-based model.
Any employer wishing to revoke a remote working policy must approach with caution. Employers need to stay mindful of the impact any sudden change may have on the workforce. The first thing that an employer should consider when deciding whether to change their working from home policies, are their employees’ contracts of employment.
Many employers’ hybrid working policies are not contractual in nature but implemented due to the implications of COVID-19. Depending on how long the employee has been allowed to work from other locations, the policy could be regarded as an implied term of the contract through custom and practice. Therefore, deciding to reverse or amend the policy without the employee’s consent, whether it was contractual or not, could amount to a unilateral change of an employee’s contract of employment, amounting to a breach of contract. This may enable the employee to resign and lodge proceedings with the Industrial Tribunal for constructive unfair dismissal.
Employers should review the wording within the policy and if it clearly states that the policy is subject to review, it may allow the employer greater flexibility when wanting to make changes. However, when wishing to amend the policy, employers should ensure they do so within previously agreed agreements and/or adopt a reasonable approach. Employers should consider discussing the proposed changes with the employees and consider the following:
Further consideration should be given to employees who have been working remotely due to a disability or caring responsibilities. Therefore, any provision, criterion or practice that an employer is deciding to make or change should be assessed to ensure that it is not putting certain employees at a disadvantage which could amount to indirect discrimination. Employers have a duty to make reasonable adjustments for workers with a disability, or caring responsibilities, which may include allowing flexible working.
Employers should have a clear and credible business rationale for the changes sought. However, it is important that employers maintain clear and open communication and conduct a transparent consultation process with staff. Involving employees in the conversation and allowing them to partake in any decision ensures staff feel included and heard; this can help employers to retain talent and ensure staff are happy and motivated.
If you require any further advice which relates to this article please do not hesitate to contact our Employment team.
This article has been produced for general information purposes and further advice should be sought from a professional advisor.