Rise in home working in Buckinghamshire during pandemic

Trend could lead to a new “class divide”, says union

Thursday, 20th May 2021, 7:45 am
ONS data estimates that 46% of the 270,964 employed people aged 16 and over in Buckinghamshire worked from home at some stage in 2020

More than two in five people in Buckinghamshire worked from home at some point last year, new figures suggest.

The TUC union said the trend of home working, which has been accelerated by coronavirus, could lead to a new "class divide" across Great Britain.

Office for National Statistics data estimates that 46 per cent of the 270,964 employed people aged 16 and over in Buckinghamshire worked from home at some stage in 2020.

This was up from 42 per cent in 2019, and above the UK average average of 37 per cent last year – though rates differed significantly.

The figures are based on the ONS's annual population survey.

They show that in the London borough of Richmond, 71 per cent of people worked from home last year, while just nine per cent did in South Ayrshire, in Scotland.

Across the UK, 26 per cent of people worked at home at some point in the week they were surveyed – more than double that of 2019.

The TUC says this trend could lead to a new “class divide”, as those who have been able to work from home will find it easier to achieve more flexible working in the future.

Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the union, added: “It’s likely that many workers will want to spend more time working from home than before, and it’s vital that employers have positive and constructive discussions with staff and unions about how to make this work.

“A sole focus on home working rights would create new inequalities for those who cannot easily work from home.

“The Prime Minister’s failure to include an employment bill in his legislative programme is a colossal failure to address the needs of working people. He must bring forward new rights to flexible working without delay.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson recently indicated to MPs that guidance encouraging people in England to work from home if they can will be dropped from June 21.

The ONS figures show people working in information and communication roles were the most likely to have avoided the office last year, with 69 per cent saying they had worked at home.

Meanwhile, accommodation and food service employees were the least likely to home work, at just 11 per cent.

However, separate ONS statistics show that people working from home last year were doing six hours of overtime per week on average – compared to four hours for those who had to travel to their jobs.

Work Wise UK, a campaign group seeking more progressive employment practices, said the way companies work may change as the UK emerges from lockdown.

Chief executive Phil Flaxton said: “Will we end presenteeism, reduce commuting, use designated workspaces in homes, or make hybrid working across workplaces and homes the norm?

“Working people need a say on what works for them and what doesn’t.

"If their needs are respected, it could really help healthy changes that benefit the whole working population."

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said the government will not bring forward an employment bill until the pandemic is over, but it has reconvened the Flexible Working Taskforce to support emerging changes in working.

A spokeswoman added: "The government is committed to supporting all employees to manage their work-life commitments."