Pay cuts for home workers could be a HR minefield

Employers could face a legal minefield if they decide to tell their staff that working from home could lead to wage cuts.

The move could constitute a change to terms and conditions, which could be challenged by workers and their trade unions, so firms need to think carefully and take expert employment law and HR advice.

The Government has now lifted its pandemic requirement for people to work from home where possible, instead advising that employees may begin to return to office life, but any anticipated flood of returnees to the office is more of a trickle at the moment.

It comes as some firms have implemented new policies. Internet giant Google has offered workers a new ‘work location tool’  which calculates the effects working from home could have on the pay packets of their employees. According to news agency Reuters, Google employees based in the same office before the pandemic could see changes in pay if they switch to working from home permanently, with those with long commutes hit the hardest.

There have also been suggestions, since denied by the Government, that civil servants could receive a pay cut if they do not return to the office, as well as potential cuts to the London weighting allowance.

Pret a Manger, which says it has been hit hard in city centres by the lack of office workers, has made the temporary suspension of  paid break permanent, effectively a pay cut.

Pret says that as a result of loss in trade in city centres it is planning to open scores of new outlets outside of city centres, with their regional outlets busier than ever.

Cutting pay could also leave firms facing staffing problems if key workers decide they will not return to the office and seek other jobs.

Their argument being that working from home is beneficial to employer and employee and that although the commute clearly saves money, other costs like utility bills and office equipment in the house are increased.

It could also be argued that paying an office worker more than a home worker for doing the same job could be discriminatory.

According to guidance from the Advisory Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas), employers should talk with potentially affected staff and their trade union or other employee representatives. If an employer has an existing agreement with a recognised union about working from home, for example an agreed homeworking policy, they must consult the trade union if they’re considering any changes.

For help and advice, contact our expert team at AGS HR Solutions today to discuss your requirements.