Employers giving pay cuts to remote and hybrid workers could face discrimination lawsuits, employment lawyers have said.
Companies that pay higher salaries to workers who come into the office risk being subject to sexual discrimination lawsuits, due to the fact women are more likely to work from home than men, lawyers told City A.M.
Fiona Mendel, a solicitor at Seddons, said such policies could be considered discriminatory if women are placed at a “substantial disadvantage” compared to their male colleagues.
The comments come after a survey from the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development (CIPD) showed 13 per cent of UK employers are considering cutting pay or benefits for staff that work from home.
The CIPD survey of 1,000 employers also found four per cent of companies had already cut pay or benefits for remote and hybrid workers.
CIPD’s head of public policy Ben Willmott, said such policies create “risk of indirect discrimination, as it’s likely that there will be more people with caring responsibilities, health conditions or disabilities working more regularly from home.”
Bettina Bender, a partner at Winckworth Sherwood, said paying remote and hybrid workers less “could raise potential discrimination issues” – particularly if the policy disadvantages women, who may choose to work from home due to childcaring responsibilities, or those with physical or mental disabilities.
However, the law firm partner said employers seeking to avoid discrimination lawsuits “will most likely need to engage in an analysis of their workforce and the reasons why individuals may be preferring to work from home” to ensure the policy is not discriminatory.
Bender said employers may seek to argue that as those working from home are saving on travel costs, it is reasonable to pay them lower salaries.
The comments come after London law firm Stephenson Harwood in May told staff they would be allowed to work from home permanently – if they are willing to give up 20 per cent of their pay.