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Coronavirus: Granting people legal right to work from home could prove minefield, says expert


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Specialist: Louise McAloon

Specialist: Louise McAloon

Specialist: Louise McAloon

A leading employment solicitor believes that giving people the legal right to work from home would be incredibly difficult to enforce.

It is understood that the idea of a right to work from home to ensure that people are not forced to go back to the workplace after the lockdown is being considered in Whitehall.

The Daily Telegraph reported that officials at the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Department have raised the possibility of enshrining the right to work from home in law in order to help ease the lockdown.

It would mean that staff would not be compelled to go in to the office, while limiting the costs for employers who have to make their workplaces safe for social distancing.

Louise McAloon from Worthingtons Solicitors in Belfast explained that in order to do that, the Government would be creating a new statutory right.

"The first point that I would make is that there's already a right to request to work from home and that is under existing working provisions," she said. "What I would say, if you think about it, the Government would then have to think of what sort of statutory exemptions there would be.

"If they're going to create a statutory right it would have to have bells and whistles around it, such as what reason would be legitimate for an employer saying you can't work from home.

"There would also have to be the right to challenge that to a tribunal.

"You would create the right to appeal and potential referral claims to an industrial tribunal, which aren't sitting at the moment and are unlikely to until July 1.

"How would you police or enforce that right?"

Ms McAloon added that Stormont should be identifying what types of businesses should reopen and what should stay closed and issue general guidance, as that would be the "common sense" approach.

"Most employers have embraced the concept that if people can work from home they should be facilitated to do that," she continued.

"I think the idea of giving them a legal right to work from home is going to be fairly difficult to implement and potentially difficult to enforce.

"By the time you enforce it with an appeal process and an industrial tribunal, the lockdown might be well over at that stage."

Belfast Telegraph