Permanent Hybrid working? Where are we now?

30 April 2021

Just what does the future hold for employers? As lockdown eases and people start considering how they want to return to their offices the chancellor has warned bosses that staff may quit if they are not allowed to work from the office once the UK emerges from the current lockdown. He said employees would ‘vote with their feet’ and might consider working for someone else if they were made to work from home full time. Many employers are now faced with some strategic decisions around how to operate their organisations effectively in a post coronavirus world, having successfully run their businesses remotely for over a year now. 

Some large employers have started to set out their stall with some large global investment banks suggesting quite strongly that working from home will not be their long-term norm. Instead indicating they prefer a strategy that involves more of a return to their offices where they can collaborate freely and easily in person and build Company culture.
On the other hand, other large global organisations, and some tech companies have indicated that they will offer work from home forever and will not expect their employees to return to offices at all; allowing full flexibility for UK based and global working.

From a UK perspective, what does this mean in terms of contractual arrangements, expenses for travel and any salary weightings which might previously been based on an office location (such as London weighting), at a minimum this will require re calibration of associated polices.

For global remote working, this brings a huge number of considerations. Where an individual works in a country different to that of their home employment contract, this potentially causes personal tax, employment tax/social security (payroll) and corporate (PE) implications- not to mention employment law, immigration and security issues. 

For multinational organisations with a large global footprint, this could be managed by using this structure to second staff for global remote working arrangements to manage risk. However, where the organisation has a limited global footprint, each instance of an individual working remotely globally should be reviewed to ensure risk is appropriately managed. In addition, a company communication and policy on what is allowed should be implemented to control and manage the associated risks and cost.

Somewhere in the middle these two different approaches is the now famous hybrid model which many employers have said their businesses will no doubt settle back into with some office and client time resuming as and when is possible and some working from home. Recently some larger organisations have also announced more permanent flexible working arrangements as well; with start and finish at your preferred times being given as a permanent option to those whose roles can support this type of working arrangement to support working from home models.

Whilst there are a number of considerations for home and hybrid working, either in the UK and globally there are also significant benefits to balance with the risk and governance issues. Allowing flexibility can be very powerful for employee engagement and being flexible on global location can open up the global talent pool, particularly for niche skills.

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) says the following key tests for a safe return are hinged on considering whether it is essential and is it safe for employees to return to the office and is it mutually agreed. A good dialogue with people returning to the workplace so that concerns can be addressed is strongly recommended. There are some innovative ways some employers are helping their employees manage new ways of working. For instance, managers starting to colour code meetings for their teams so employees know whether they need to be desk bound or can move around as they attend and the clearing down of days or afternoons so there are less platform-based meetings. 

If you would like to discuss your organisation’s proposed return to work and associated policies for UK or global homeworking or hybrid working, please get in touch Kerri Constable and Joanne Webber to discuss the HR and tax considerations.