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Will remote working leave professionals out of pocket?

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Posted about 2 months ago by Jane Donnelly, Managing Director, Hays East of England

The news that Google employees in the US who choose to work from home permanently may get a pay cut has understandably generated a lot of interest and comment. Pre-pandemic only a small minority of full-time employees with office jobs worked primarily from home. Covid-19 changed that. Government guidance to work from home if you could, meant that remote working was suddenly and unexpectedly the norm for office workers. Adapting to this enforced change some employees found that remote working offered them a better work-life balance, and many are keen to continue to work either fully or partially from home. At Hays in response to feedback from our employees we recently implemented a balanced working policy whereby most staff are expected to work five days in ten in a Hays office. We recognised that norms of working have changed, and we responded by giving staff greater flexibility to choose a working pattern that suits them.

Now, in the UK at least, social distancing guidelines have eased employers and employee alike are trying to navigate a new normal and establish ways of working that are less rigid and offer more flexibly. Set against this backdrop the announcement that Google are changing how remote workers are paid – has many questioning what this might mean or the salaries of those who opt to work remotely. Is Google, in many areas a trailblazer, setting a remuneration trend other organisation will follow?

It is important to recognise that remote working doesn’t just offer benefits to employees, companies are also using full-time remote working to their competitive advantage as it enables them to recruit from a wider talent pool, particularly in sectors such as marketing, finance, HR and technology. A recent survey by Hays found 28% of employees are hiring for fully remote roles, of those 16% said it was a new policy that did not exist pre-pandemic. In the US, Google is the first major employer to state that staff who work from home full-time could face salary cuts and earn less than those who work in its office. So far, no major UK employer has announced a similar plan and I think it is unlikely to happen any time soon given the widespread skills shortages across many sectors. Currently the main driver of salaries is the hight demand for skilled talent and this fuelling pay increases.

What’s more lower pay for remote workers is currently at odds with popular sentiment, we ran a poll on our website of 2000 respondents and the response was clear, 80% don’t believe fully remote workers should be paid less than in-office workers. Covid-19 has been a huge catalyst for change in terms of how and where we work. And it is challenging in periods of great upheaval to know which changes will be temporary and which are fundamental shifts that will be permanent. However, while the demand for talent is high and skills shortages are widespread, I can’t see a policy of pay cuts for remote workers gaining traction in the UK.