‘My boss tried to cut my pay because I wanted to work from home – is that legal?’

During the various iterations of lockdowns which we have lived through during the pandemic, there was guidance from the Government about how certain jobs should be performed from home “if possible” to limit the spread of Covid-19. Such guidance served to vary the contract of employment you had which says you must work from your employer’s head office or elsewhere as they shall decide.

It was a short-term variation of your employment contract, imposed by necessity arising from a national emergency. But now the work-from-home Government directive has ended, you are back on your original contract terms.

I would be giving a different opinion if your contract of employments expressly permitted working from home, but very few standard contracts do that and usually provide for the place of work to be in the control of the employer.

This still means that your employment contract can be changed, but only by reasonable negotiation between the employer and employee. The offer made by your employer should be seen as the opening shot in negotiations between you and how you now handle them either as an individual or collectively is in your hands.

If your productivity and profitability is the same whether you are at home or in the office, this is a factor you may wish to bring into play. Likewise, any cost saving you perceive to your employer in reduced office space, heating, lighting and so on is something you may wish to throw into the ring to argue against a working-from-home pay cut.

Others may well grab the flexibility of working from home and feel a 20pc pay cut is worth it. My own bias is creeping in here, but in a professional services business I feel shared time in the office is essential for personal learning and improved performance, especially for newer and younger staff.

I hope you can settle on a future working arrangement you feel is fair, but your employer has been clever in offering a deal which is lawful. You have just got to decide which option best suits you.

One final point to make is that anyone who works from home can claim tax relief currently worth up to £125 a year. It’s not much, but better in your pocket than the Treasury’s and it is relatively easy to claim through HMRC.

Ask a Lawyer is written by Gary Rycroft, solicitor at Joseph A Jones & Co, and published twice a month on Mondays. Email your questions to [email protected]

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