Home Working and Reasonable Adjustments

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Conference
2022 Local Government Service Group Conference
Date
18 February 2022
Decision
Carried

Conference notes that the Covid-19 pandemic saw a revolution in home working in local government workplaces. Although it is important to remember that home working should be a choice and not compulsory, it has brought benefits for many local government workers in terms of work-life balance. Parents and carers have been better able to combine work and caring responsibilities. For disabled workers, UNISON’s own research found that 73% felt they were more productive working from home as they avoided an often exhausting and painful commute and because of their ability to work more flexible hours, with more frequent short breaks.

Now that Covid restrictions have been removed by government, many local government employers are looking at agreeing approaches to hybrid and home working in the future. This is welcomed by many of our members, including disabled members. However, it is important to ensure that where such policies are agreed, that the local government employer accepts the need to continue to provide reasonable adjustments at home and in the workplace for disabled workers.

There is a danger that some local government employers may feel they are not responsible for staff working from home, despite their legal duty of care and duty to provide reasonable adjustments for disabled workers. Other local government employers may feel they only need to provide the adjustment once and ask workers to choose whether they want adjustments at home or in the office. This is clearly not acceptable and should be resisted by local government branches.

It is also important that local government employers agree policies around ensuring disabled home and hybrid workers aren’t excluded by inaccessible virtual and hybrid meeting platforms or overlooked for training and promotion opportunities as a result of home working.

In addition, there are disadvantages to home working that may disproportionately impact on disabled people working from home as a reasonable adjustment, such as higher utility bills due to spiralling costs and the need to maintain warmer environments for longer for some, that employers need to be made aware of.

Conference welcomes UNISON’s Home and Hybrid Working bargaining guide which can be used by branches to raise these issues with local government employers.

Conference further notes that some local government staff in frontline roles did not have access to home working during the pandemic. Staff in these roles are often disproportionately Black workers and conference believes that it is important that occupational segregation does not lead to unequal access to home and hybrid working in the future.

Conference therefore calls on the Service Group Executive to work with the National Disabled Members Committee to:

1)Encourage local government branches to agree home and hybrid working policies with their employers that include a robust right to reasonable adjustments for disabled workers both at home and in the workplace;

2)Promote UNISON’s Home and Hybrid Working bargaining guide to branches and regions;

3)Raise issues of occupational segregation and unequal access to home and hybrid working for frontline workers at a national level with local government employers.