A Labour government would give employees a legal right to work from home, deputy leader Angela Rayner has announced.
Under a new package of reforms, all staff would also also be granted a “right to switch off” to avoid being contacted via phone or email by bosses outside working hours.
Rayner said that Labour would place on duty on employers to provide “flexible working” from day one of employment, where there was no reason a job could not be done with varying hours or remotely.
The shadow secretary for work said all workers should be allowed to enjoy the benefits of home working even once the Covid pandemic was over.
Home workers would also be encouraged to join trade unions to allow them to continue to collectively organise on terms and conditions of work.
The right to flexible working – including flexible hours, staggered hours and flexibility around childcare and caring responsibilities – was aimed at ensuring “work fits around people’s lives instead of dictating their lives”, she said.
Among the changes the party wants to see is flexibility around school runs for parents, as well as childcare during school holidays.
Labour is also calling for the end of “one-sided flexibility” that currently benefits bosses, so all workers have secure employment and regular and predictable working.
Unions would be granted greater access to workplaces, including to home workers, t”o ensure fair flexibility for all is delivered through a collective voice for all staff, including those who are working flexibly or remotely”.
“Labour will make flexible working a force for good so that everyone is able to enjoy the benefits of flexible working, from a better work-life balance to less time commuting and more time with their family,” Rayner said.
“The ‘new normal’ after this pandemic must mean a new deal for all working people based on flexibility, security and strengthened rights at work.
“The right to flexible working will change our economy and the world of work for the better, stop women losing out at work or even dropping out of the workforce altogether, end the sexist assumption of Dad being at work in the office and Mum looking after the kids at home and improve the lives of millions of workers.”
Boris Johnson pledged in the 2019 Conservative manifesto to make flexible working the “default” but appears to have shelved the plans along with an Employment Rights Bill.
Last month the Prime Minister’s spokesperson said: “We’ve asked people to work from home where they can during the pandemic, but there are no plans to make this permanent or introduce a legal right to work from home…It is important to stress that there are no plans to make working from home the default, or introduce a legal right to work from home.”
The TUC has found that 82% of workers want to work flexibly (87% for women workers), whereas the most popular form of flexible working, flexi-time, is unavailable to over half of the UK workforce.
Some 30% of flexible working requests are turned down because staff do not have a statutory right to work variable hours. The UK ranked 24th out of 25 countries on how often job demands interfere with family life.
Two-thirds of working mothers lack childcare during these summer holidays, and before Covid only 3.6% of eligible fathers took shared parental leave.