Yahoo criticised over homeworking ban

Yahoo has been criticised by 02 after an internal memo from its HR head ended its work from home policy.

The leaked memo calls for all workers to be office-based from June. The memo reportedly says:

“To become the absolute best place to work, communication and collaboration will be important, so we need to be working side-by-side. That is why it is critical that we are all present in our offices.

“Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home. We need to be one Yahoo!, and that starts with physically being together. Beginning in June, we’re asking all employees with work-from-home arrangements to work in Yahoo! offices.”

02 says the idea that speed and quality suffer through homeworking runs counter to its own research. Transport minister Norman Baker has also described the move as “regrettable”. Ben Dowd, 02 business director, says its research shows three quarters of staff think they are more productive if they can work flexibly, including homeworking. It said productivity doubled after its flexible working pilot.

The ban on homeworking is reported to have come from Yahoo’s new CEO is working mum Marissa Meyer who famously said she would take just two weeks’ maternity leave when she had her first child.

James Hall, Associate at Charles Russell LLP, says any business seeking a similar ban on homeworking might face problems.

“Whilst there is no direct obligation in the UK to allow homeworking, any company looking to issue a Yahoo-style outright ban should take care,” he says.

“Where there has been a specific written agreement allowing an employee to work from home, any attempt to unilaterally change this may be a direct breach of contract, particularly in the absence of a mobility clause. This would be the case whether the agreement is in the contract itself, or in a side letter agreed, for example, as a result of a flexible working request. Even where there has not been a written agreement, custom and practice may mean that homeworking has in any event become a contractual entitlement.

“Discrimination issues can also arise with any ban on homeworking, especially an absolute ban. Women continue to outnumber men in requests to work from home, in particular to manage childcare, meaning that such a ban may amount to indirect sex discrimination. In addition, homeworking can in some cases amount to a reasonable adjustment for the purposes of disability discrimination. Whilst this does not mean that employers are forced to allow it, it does mean that any refusal should have a solid business justification and should where possible be considered on a case-by-case basis.”

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