Can my employer force me to adopt homeworking when I'd rather work in the office?

Homeworking can be required as part of a job description for new starters, but if an existing office-based job is to be changed to homeworking, it should be a voluntary arrangement for both the worker and the employer.

The main terms of work are set out in the contract of employment entered into by an employer and an employee. One of those terms is work location. This should be changed only by mutual agreement, (reached after negotiation with a trade union where one is recognised). In general, you can't be forced to work from home without your agreement.

Some employment contracts include written terms known as ‘mobility clauses’, which allow the employer to make unilateral changes to your work location, usually after consulting with you. The legal basis for the employer’s ability to impose the change is that you signalled your agreement to the change at the start of your job when you signed your employment contract.

Even if your contract contains this kind of term, your employer must still act reasonably, consult with you and set aside enough time before making any changes to enable you to prepare, instead of forcing change on you. Otherwise, the employer is in danger of breaching the fundamental duty of mutual trust and confidence that is implied in every employment contract.

Sometimes employers take a strategic decision to let go of office space to cut costs, asking some employees to work from home instead. This is likely to create a redundancy situation, and those unable to work from home should be offered a redundancy payment if they have enough service. (You will lose your right to a redundancy payment if you unreasonably refuse a suitable offer of alternative employment made before your employment ended.)

Forcing you to change your work location from office to home would be a fundamental change to one of your core contract terms. Check those terms carefully, including any mobility clause, and take legal advice before you decide what action to take.

Your employer must not discriminate when implementing changes to work location. 

They must also make reasonable adjustments for any disabled employees who are adversely affected by a plan to shift to homeworking.
As with most initiatives, homeworking is best introduced through mutual agreement. Someone forced to work from home is unlikely to be as motivated or productive as someone who does so willingly.
 

Note: This content is provided as general background information and should not be taken as legal advice or financial advice for your particular situation. Make sure to get individual advice on your case from your union, a source on our free help page or an independent financial advisor before taking any action.

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