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Dutch to make working from home a legal right – and the rest of Europe could follow

·2-min read
home working
home working

The Netherlands is on the cusp of making working from home a legal right in a radical move that experts say could be followed across Europe.

The Dutch parliament has approved a law to establish working from home as a legal right for certain jobs.

Although the move still needs sign-off from the Dutch senate before it can come into force and it is not yet clear how exactly the law would work in practice, employment experts said it could cause a ripple effect in other European Union countries.

Martin Luff, a lawyer at Vinson and Elkins, said: "I have no doubt that lawmakers around the world will look closely at the proposed Dutch law and think about whether something similar would be worth considering in their own countries."

Companies across Europe have already decided to ditch the traditional nine-to-five office shift following an uphill battle to get staff back in full time following lockdowns. BNP Paribas, France's largest bank, has told its 132,000 staff that they can continue working from home for half the week until at least 2024.

Businesses which have told workers to get back in have faced a backlash from staff. Elon Musk’s demand that Tesla workers return to the office was challenged last month by Germany’s largest trade union, which said it would support any employee who opposed him.

Like the Netherlands, Germany's labour ministry is understood to be working on policies that could legally increase flexibility for staff. Employment lawyers said France and Portugal are also considering protections in this area.

However experts argued that the UK, where home-working habits appear to persist more than anywhere else, would be likely to resist such a move. 

Nick Le Riche, a partner at law firm BDP Pitmans, said: "From what I understand, returning to the office has been more popular in Europe than it has been in the UK so there possibly hasn’t been as much pressure for the introduction of legal rights in this area."

Mr Luff added that countries including the UK currently have laws in place that mean employees have to consider flexible working requests but can refuse them for a good business reason. He said he doubts the UK would "entertain making a change".

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