Office relocation and returning to the workplace after a period of remote working

Posted in : Seamus Says - Employment Law Discussion on 5 February 2021
Seamus McGranaghan
O'Reilly Stewart Solicitors
Issues covered: Office relocation; Returning to the workplace; Remote working

If your office has been moved and adds on over an hour travel time daily and you have been working remotely for 12 months, should you have to return to the office? Should there be any financial payment made by the employer to accommodate the loss of time/additional cost of travel and parking?

So presumably, there's additional parking costs as well. Anything that, Seamus? Didn't expect that one but it's come in, so let's have a . . .

Seamus: No. My view on that would be that there wouldn't be, and, you know, I think like if the job title is, or if the job was set up and the terms and conditions provide for the employee to work from home, you know, it would be very unusual for jobs to pay for anyone to travel to work or for having to park or buy lunch or anything like that. I mean the traditional aspect of it is that we get our salary for the work that we do and how we get there and back is a matter for ourselves.

If the contract specifically says that they work from home and that they don't need to attend the office, there's a potential that you could say that there's expenses arising as a result of that. But you would imagine that any good contract will have something built in to say that there has to be flexibility around attending the office and that's part and parcel of the terms and conditions of the role. So I think, look, that would be a dangerous precedent to set whereby you would have somebody that is expecting to have their expenses met for attending the office.

Scott: Yeah, well, I suppose it depends. It might arise a lot more in future where employers say okay your designated office is the home. And so, going back to your point there about having a well-constructed contract, if that's what you're going to have where you're saying you're required to work from home or the office and people understand because location is one of the points that has to be covered in all terms of conditions of employment under the law, so I suppose that'll be important going forward.

There have certainly been . . . I've seen in the past, particularly in the public sector, where if somebody has to move, usually by compulsory transfer but maybe not all the time, that there'll be a payment made for maybe up to three years to help somebody acclimatise the difference. So I'm not sure with this question if the office is actually moved whilst this person's been from working from home and they're now having to travel an hour further than they did prior the lockdown, if you know what I mean, or whether they're just saying, wait, my office is now an hour away and always was but I'm presuming that there may be a change.

You know in those circumstances to avoid redundancies, part of the discussions might be around making some kind of compensation for a period of time at the very least to help employees who are being put out, not that there's a requirement or not, may be redundancy or otherwise. Is that the case?

Seamus: Yeah, I mean, I think that's right. I suppose, like, it'll depend. You can absolutely envisage these sorts of issues arising in the future, particularly for anybody maybe that started a role within the past 12 months and haven't actually worked in the office, and they've been so used to working from home. And there is a cost saving benefits to being at home. There's also the other side that you're at home and you're using your own heat and light and all of that kind of stuff. And, yeah, I think look, it would certainly be one that you'd be wanting to focus on the contract and make sure that there's some flexibility for the employer in relation to that. And there are certainly, there's plenty of jobs out there that you can do solely from home and that's not a problem. And I think just you have to have a well-constructed contract of employment there.

But certainly, there's plenty of negotiations that go on between employers and employees in relation to travel and if there's a proposed demand to terms and conditions during the term of the contract, you know, that there could be sweeteners provided by employers to employees in that respect. So it's all in there but at the same time, I would be cautious about it for someone then that would be saying, I need additional expense here to travel in and out of work and for parking.


This article is correct at 05/02/2021

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Seamus McGranaghan
O'Reilly Stewart Solicitors

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