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Staff could get legal right to work from home, says Matt Hancock – Telegraph.co.uk

One of Mr Hancock’s aides said the Health secretary meant it was already possible to request to flexible working under existing legislation

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Ministers could legislate to give people a legal right to work from home, Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, said on Friday.
Mr Hancock said the coronavirus pandemic had made flexible working the “new norm” and was something all “good employers” should accommodate moving forward.
Asked in a webchat with members of women’s club AllBright if he would consider enforcing this through Government legislation, Mr Hancock replied “yes”.
He added: “The way you could look at it is there’s a right to request flexible working. I definitely think it should be the norm where possible.
“We need to persuade people that allowing flexible working should continue. This is a change that is never going to go away.”
One of Mr Hancock’s aides later said that the Health secretary was trying to suggest that it is already possible to request to flexible working under existing legislation.
The Telegraph disclosed on May 8 that officials in the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy department had raised the issue of enshrining a right to work from home in law.
Mr Hancock also called for a study to be done into the “efficacy” of remote working, though he said the broader benefits of the practice – particularly for women – made it worth sustaining in the long-term.
“There’s a debate as to whether people work better when they’re working from home and it’s really difficult to know whether productivity goes up or down, but we’ve just had a massive experiment in that and we need to understand the answer to that,” he said.
“There’s a big argument that productivity has gone up during this when people are working from home, certainly in terms of wellbeing.”
He said one of the main beneficiaries of home working were women as they tend to have more childcare responsibilities, adding: “Evidence shows (flexible working) on average benefits women more than men”.
The call for a legal right to work from home was backed by Layla Moran, the Liberal Democrat leadership challenger, to give people a better work/life balance.
She said: “It really is better for everyone the businesses get more motivated staff and workers get to work from wherever is best for them and their lives. It really is a win-win idea.”
But Matthew Percival, the CBI’s Director, People and Skills, said companies were “keen to learn the lessons of lockdown, especially where they have found that more roles can be done from home than previously thought possible.
Its important that a case-by-case approach is taken – some jobs remain best served by employees returning to the workplace once safe to do so.
But an industry source added: “This could be a government backed right to loaf on your sofa.”
Outside of remote working, the discussion also broached the subject of whether Mr Hancock had any regrets about the Government’s handling of the crisis.
Mr Hancock also admitted that the Government was wrong to impose strict rules on banning people from going to the funerals of family members.
He said: “We put out social distancing guidance, which was really strongly interpreted, and it meant that in the peak of the pandemic, lots of people didn’t go to the funeral even of someone they’ve been married to for 50 years. 
“And there was a little boy from South London who was buried without his parents there, and that really affected me. So, we realised we’d made a mistake and we changed the guidance.”

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