A recent YouGov survey suggests many office workers will need a cash incentive to encourage them to return to the office. The outcome of this survey will only increase the likelihood that full-time office working will be a permanent thing of the past for many office workers. Employers up and down the country working on their future office strategy will be very interested in these findings. We are increasingly advising on implementing much more flexible place of work provisions in contracts of employment to help create the best terms and conditions for the future. I don't think this will go as far as cash incentives to attend the office but, we may increasingly see travel costs into work covered where office working is the exception and not the norm.
What about employees who don't have the luxury of working from home? Many employees are expected to work in an environment where they will provide services to people who have or may have been infected with Covid-19. Will paying a cash incentive to employees to deliver those services become common?
A handful of providers in the social care sector have paid a premium for staff working with service users with Covid-19 during the first wave of infections. However, they won't be able to sustain that financially for the long term. In any event, in the vast majority of cases where a worker has concerns about attending their workplace, a cash incentive won't be appropriate and could be damaging to good employee relations.
Employers have a duty to manage the health and safety risks their employees may face. If an employee has a reasonable belief they are in serious and imminent danger if they remain at work, they have a right not to suffer a detriment or to be dismissed for raising those concerns. "Danger money" would, in those cases, be wholly inappropriate. Instead, employers need to explain the outcome of the risk assessment they have carried out and work with the employee to address any concerns they have rather than paying them more to attend the workplace.
My colleagues Alice Kinder and Hannah Bollard have recorded an excellent podcast on dealing with health and safety concerns raised by employees which unpicks this in more detail. In the meantime, I don't expect cash incentives to attend work to catch on in the sectors we work in but undoubtedly a flexible work base, with significant time at home, will be the future for many of us.
Just 7% of UK office workers have said they would be willing to return to the office full time post-coronavirus, demonstrating a shift in attitudes towards presenteeism. Yet employees said cash incentives could persuade more to come back. According to a new YouGov survey on behalf of workspace analytics provider Locatee, almost one third (31%) of workers would be willing to accept an extra £10 or less per day to return to the workplace, and 37% said they would accept between £20 and £30 per day.