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Firms find resistance to office return – survey
(L to R): Joanne Hyde and Julie Galbraith Pic: Eversheds Sutherland

24 Nov 2022 / employment Print

Firms find resistance to office return – survey

Employment lawyers at global law firm Eversheds Sutherland say that employees have benefited from “a significant change in the balance of power” over the past two years.

Partners Joanne Hyde and Julie Galbraith (pictured) said that issues such as the right to request remote working, work-life balance, and even whistleblowing were now some of the key issues facing employers and human-resources (HR) professionals.

At its annual employment-law evening last night (23 November), Eversheds Sutherland revealed the results of a survey showing that more than half of HR and employment professionals were finding “pockets of resistance” when asking employees to work from their offices.

Staff retention

The firm found that 97% of companies had adopted hybrid working.

The survey found that staff retention and requests for higher salaries were the biggest challenges facing their organisations, with both cited by 28% of HR professionals.

A quarter of those surveyed said that recruitment was the biggest issue facing their organisations.

While just over 40% of HR professionals said that they did not think their organisation might be forced to implement redundancies in the next 12 months, 27% did see lay-offs as a possibility.

The areas of day-to-day employment law causing the most concerns for HR and employment executives were poor performance reviews (61%), illness absences (47%), and grievances (44%).

According to the survey, half of firms have a formal policy on remote or flexible working in place, whereas almost 40% operate remote or flexible working without a policy.

Impact on legislation

The Eversheds Sutherland lawyers described the current situation as “the longest period of employee power that we have experienced in recent years as specialist employment solicitors”.

Hyde and Galbraith added, however, that there would be a knock-on impact on employment legislation when the balance of power began to move back to the employer.

They cited the redrafting of the Right to Request Remote Working Bill 2022, which initially gave employers 13 reasons to prevent remote working.

“This was felt by general society to be too pro-employer, but that was six months ago when employees were able to make more demands,” the employment lawyers said.

“As the recruitment challenges ease, employers are more likely to require employees to return to the office as they will be less afraid of employees leaving, and this may alleviate some of the resistance employers are feeling when it comes to getting employees to work from the office,” they continued.

Hyde and Galbraith added that the bill might have limited impact when enacted, if employees were afraid to be seen to work from home too often.

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