Number of staff working from home passes 1.5 million

Figures rise 19 per cent in a decade, with older employees most likely to benefit

The number of employees who say they ‘usually’ work from home has climbed by almost a fifth over the past decade, passing 1.5 million, though the overall take-up rates for home working may be slowing.

New research from the TUC found that 1.52 million employees classed themselves as working from home in 2015, up 241,000 (19 per cent) on 2005 figures, with millions more regularly or occasionally following suit.

Almost two-thirds of habitual home workers were in their forties and fifties, with IT, agriculture and construction the most frequently cited sectors. The south west and the east of England saw the highest penetration of home working, with Northern Ireland lagging behind – just one in 48 employees there regularly worked from home.

Though the news was hailed as evidence of increasing acceptance of flexible working practices among employers, the TUC suggested take-up of home working was tailing off. TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said there was still scepticism about the practice in many quarters.

“Many employers still don’t trust their staff to work from home and force them to make unnecessary time-consuming trips into the office so they can keep an eye on them,” she said. “Employers need to take a more enlightened approach to home working as it can benefit business, the workforce and the wider economy.”

O’Grady said the option to work from home is good for the economy as it “increases productivity, helps businesses hold on to talented staff, and allows people with caring responsibilities or a disability to access the labour market”.

When the self-employed and other members of the labour market are included, the total number of those working from home reached more than four million, up by more than half a million since 2007.

The biggest growth in home working, across both employees and the wider population, has been seen among women. This tallies with ONS employment statistics this week, which found that, as the retirement age for women has been gradually pushed up from 60 over recent years, thousands of female workers who would previously have retired have remained in the labour market.

The employment rate for women reached 69.2 per cent in March, the highest since comparable records began in 1971, the ONS said. Overall, the number of people in work has reached a record 31.5 million, according to this week’s figures, marking an employment rate of 74.2 per cent.

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