I was with a group of businessmen last week discussing climate change. Chatham House rules so I can’t be more specific, but the conclusions will reach Whitehall in due course.
One of the more obvious conclusions we came to was that encouraging more people to work at home would benefit the environment. Less commuting means less travel and less pollution. If people do not travel in every day the head office can be smaller, with lower energy bills, lower water usage and a lower carbon footprint. The company saves money and so do employees. Unfortunately there’s a catch.
Employers have a statutory duty to provide employees with a safe working environment. They are responsible for proper lighting levels, an adequate temperature and for ensuring that the employee has a work station with a chair that will provide proper support. The employer must ensure that all equipment is safe and that electrical equipment has been PAT tested.
To do all this in the employee’s home would infringe the employee’s rights. Not to do it lays the employer open to a claim if the home worker has a problem, like breaking a leg by tripping over the cat or getting a shock off a faulty fax.
For the employer it’s therefore safer to make everyone work in the office. Generally employees commute in their own time and at their own expense, so there’s no problem to the organisation there.
Saving the planet? Sorry, it just doesn’t make business sense.