Plans that will give millions of employees the right to demand to work from home on day one of their new job have been blasted by business bosses.
The proposal was revealed by the Government today as part a new series of laws being drawn up by ministers.
Whitehall wants to allow for more flexible working, including job-sharing, flexi-time and staggered hours to improve the work-life balance.
But critics last night condemned the scheme saying it could be a blow for small businesses and continue to starve city centres of commuter footfall, which hasn’t fully recovered since the Covid-19 pandemic.
At present, workers can demand to work from home only after six months in a new job
But plans to allow workers to demand to work from home on the first day of starting a new job could lead to a further reduction in commuter traffic – killing off businesses reliant on commuter trade. Pictured are people on London Bridge
And today, entrepreneurs launched a fresh attack on the scheme, with industry bosses claiming that workers could abuse the right to work from home.
Luke Johnson, a serial entrepreneur and chairman of bakery chain Gail’s, told MailOnline: ‘Many millions cannot work from home (WFH) – refuse workers, shop staff, delivery drivers, surgeons etc. Many business leaders feel some staff abuse WFH and are less engaged, motivated and conscientious about their job.
‘All regulations which tie employers hands will disincentivise investment. Britain is now a high tax, high regulation, high debt, high cost, low growth economy. Why would anyone invest here?’
The government hopes that the new plans will be seen as a boost for employees – particularly those who are juggling caring for their children or an elderly relative with work.
At present, workers can only demand to work from home after six months in a new job. The proposed legislation would bring this forward to the first day.
Small businesses minister Kevin Hollinrake (pictured) said last night: ‘Giving staff more say over their working pattern makes for happier employees and more productive businesses’
Small businesses minister Kevin Hollinrake last night said: ‘Giving staff more say over their working pattern makes for happier employees and more productive businesses. Put simply, it’s a no-brainer.
‘Greater flexibility over where, when, and how people work is an integral part of our plan to make the UK the best place in the world to work.’
But former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith also condemned the proposal, saying there was ‘no evidence’ for what Mr Hollinrake was saying.
He said: ‘For small businesses there are real issues here. They’re worried about this sort of thing, because what you end up with if you’re not careful is small business finding it difficult to get certain jobs done because people just say “I’m heading off home”.
‘The Government needs to make it clear there’s a way small businesses will be able to cope with this.
Former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith (pictured) said: ‘What you end up with if you’re not careful is small businesses finding it difficult to get certain jobs done because people just say “I’m heading off home”
‘If you’re a great big multinational that’s got tonnes and tonnes of people around it’s not such a problem.’
Billionaire inventor Sir James Dyson has been among those calling for British workers to get back to their offices.
The 75-year-old businessman, best known as the inventor of the Dyson bagless vacuum cleaner, warned the homeworking ‘revolution’ was wrecking productivity.
The business tycoon spoke out against the Government’s flexible working proposals earlier this year and warned that the economy ‘cannot afford such a lackadaisical approach’.
Accusing ministers of trying to decide for businesses and ignore the possible financial toll this could have on firms, Sir James told the Telegraph: ‘Ministers seem determined to decide for us and to push ahead with ‘making flexible working the default’ – the title of a recent Government “consultation exercise”.’
Billionaire Sir James Dyson, pictured in March 2015, has been among those demanding that working from home rules are not forced upon businesses
In London almost half of the city’s businesses have seen a boom in the demand of remote working, according to the capital’s chamber of commerce.
But campaigners have hit back and have demanded job adverts list the flexible working on offer and given the legal right rather than just requesting it.
Trades Union Congress boss Frances O’Grady said: ‘Flexible working should be available to everyone.
‘It’s how we keep mums in work, close the gender pay gap and give dads more time with their kids, and it’s how we keep disabled workers, older workers and carers in their jobs.
‘Allowing working people to ask for flexible working from their first day in a job would be a small step in the right direction, but we’d like the Government to go much further to ensure that flexible work now becomes the norm.’
‘Where’s the value for the taxpayer?’: Data reveals 90% of Welsh government staff are still working from home
Around nine in ten Welsh government staff are still working from home, it recently emerged.
The Labour-led Welsh government will now offer office space to other public sector workers. This will ensure taxpayer-funded buildings are put to good use and ‘maximise the benefits of office, remote and hybrid working’, a spokesman said.
But the Welsh Conservatives said more should be coming in to ensure taxpayers’ money is not wasted on heating near-empty office buildings.
A general view of Welsh Government HQ in Cathays Park, Cardiff in January 2021
In September, 10.4 per cent of staff went to Welsh government offices daily – an average of 549 staff out of more than 5,200. The Welsh government said this rose to 11 per cent in October.
Welsh Tory leader Andrew RT Davies asked whether entire floors were being heated for just a few workers.
He added: ‘We have exceptional facilities for our public servants to work in.
‘If they are not being used, where is the value for money for the taxpayer?’
Gareth Hills, national officer of the civil service union FDA Cymru Wales, said the current number of staff working from home showed that ‘the pandemic has changed the world of work and I think that change is permanent’.
‘We’re seeing increased hybrid working and that can allow for even more savings for the taxpayer as less office space is needed,’ he added.
It comes after huge backlogs built up at the DVLA, which has its headquarters in Swansea, south-west Wales, partly due to remote-working during the pandemic.
Tens of thousands of drivers were forced to wait months for documents if they sent them by post.