Can an employer ban working from home?

12th June 2019
Lindsey Hunt

Lindsey Hunt

In March 2019, city bank BNY Mellon came under fire for announcing it was putting a stop to working from home. Its employees vented that this was a huge step backwards, with issues such as mental health and childcare among the key concerns.

The backlash led to the bank retracting its plan, but the story raised questions about what an employee’s rights are when it comes to working from home.

What the contract says

Firstly, if an employment contract states that an employee can work from home, an employer should not vary this without consent. As a matter of good law and good employment practice, the employer would have to enter into a consultation with the employee, setting out the genuine business reason for the change. Even where not contractually stated, a long pattern of working from home would likely be deemed protected, by virtue of custom and practice.

Flexible working

Then, there is flexible working. The Employment Rights Act 1996 gives employees the right to make an application to change their terms and conditions relating to their hours worked, such as when and where work is done. This is known as a flexible working request.

A blanket ban on all flexible working would be in breach of the The Employment Rights Act, which explicitly gives eligible employees the right to make a request for this.

Where an employer fails to deal with a flexible working request in a satisfactory manner, an employee would have the option to complain to a tribunal. There may also be further statutory protection in the form of potential discrimination and constructive unfair dismissal claims if the flexible working request is linked to childcare, religion or disability.

Of course, a flexible working request may still be declined, but employers must explain the decision and give one of a number of defined justifications, all of which amount to legitimate business reasons for their decision.

Lindsey Hunt is a legal adviser at Bristol-based firm DAS Law.

Disclaimer: This information is for general guidance regarding rights and responsibilities and is not formal legal advice as no lawyer-client relationship has been created.

Scope of ‘injury to feelings’ expanded by employment tribunal

In employment law, awards for ‘injury to feelings’ have historically been permitted only in claims linked to discrimination, whistleblowing, and trade union membership, but the situation may now have changed.

May 2019 Learn more
How to navigate employment rights in the gig economy

If you are unsure about your employment status, the rights and benefits that come with it, you need advice from professionals who understand the law.

July 2018 Learn more

Read more from the DAS Law blog

Employment disputes ‘Self-isolation’ – what it means and its possible impact on your rights and pay

More and more people in the UK are being told to self-isolate to minimise the spread of the Coronavirus. What impact will this have on workers’ rights and pay?

February 2020
Employment disputes Do employees get extra pay on a leap year day?

Every four years, many workers find themselves cramming an extra day of work into an already packed year. But are workers in the UK entitled to extra pay for this extra work?

February 2020
Employment disputes Braving the storms: what every employee and employer needs to know about winter commuting

If you run your own business, bad weather can cause chaos when staff can’t get in. What employment law regulations are in place when handling transport troubles in winter?

February 2020
Employment disputes My employer is advertising my job. Where do I stand?

DAS Law’s Lauren Woolf explains what to do if you find out your employer has been advertising your job without informing you that you are being dismissed.

January 2020
General advice , Employment disputes Beware the perils of sharing colleagues’ Christmas party antics on social media

Are people allowed to record and share your more embarrassing moments without your permission? What does the law have to say?

December 2019
Employment disputes , Goods and services disputes All you need to know about tipping

Are we legally obliged to tip? Does that money actually go to the staff or is it kept by the business owner? Thomas Pertaia has the answers.

December 2019
Employment disputes International Stress Awareness Week: your workplace rights

To mark International Stress Awareness Week, Hannah Parsons, a solicitor at DAS Law, takes a look at what the law says your employer needs to do about stress.

October 2019
Employment disputes , Protecting your business Health and safety and computers

Employers need to manage the risks to their employees of working at computers for long periods of time. DAS Law’s Bethan Mack explains.

October 2019
Employment disputes Is there a time limit for providing an employee with a P45?

As an employer, you are required to tell HMRC when somebody leaves or retires, and deduct and pay the correct tax and National Insurance.

October 2019
Employment disputes What you need to know about pay and wages

The law seeks to provide a fair structure and ensure that we are appropriately compensated for our efforts, and that employers cannot underpay or exploit us when it comes to our wages.

October 2019
Employment disputes How to deal with mental health discrimination at work

There are legal protections in place to support those with a mental health condition. Here’s what you need to know if you are being treated unfairly at work because of your mental health.

October 2019
Employment disputes Don’t get a red card while watching the World Cup at work

If you are planning on watching World Cup matches at work there are a number of important things to consider.

September 2019
Employment disputes Can your boss force you to work the August Bank Holiday?

Can you refuse to work on a bank holiday? DAS Law’s Hannah Parsons outlines your rights.

August 2019