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I work for a tech company as a software developer. We have a system setup that allows us to work remotely but remote working has been for extenuating circumstances and not used that much.

With the Coronavirus just around the corner. It is likely our office will close and they want us to work from home.

Assuming my house is undergoing lots of renovation work and I don't have an appropriate space for the setup required to do my job. - Is my employer legally required to still pay me while the office is closed?

Note: I have reworded this question, as before it went completely off topic due to unnecessary details I included the first time.

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    How did you plan to work from home before when you were making your requests? Were you expecting the company to provide you with equipment? Was that in your request? – Tymoteusz Paul Mar 14 at 13:42
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    So why would suddenly that not be good enough for you to use your own equipment? Or are you just trying to be spiteful? I don't care if that's your plan, just want some clarity. – Tymoteusz Paul Mar 14 at 13:45
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    "wanting to annoy, upset, or hurt another person, especially in a small way, because you feel angry towards them:" Seems to fit just fine. – Tymoteusz Paul Mar 14 at 13:49
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    @flexi how about figuring out how to use this as an opportunity to work from home in the future? Make it go smoothly and then when you want to WFH you can use this as a reference point. If you complain about this, you will NEVER get to WFH. – DaveG Mar 14 at 17:55
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    By “unnecessary details” you mean “the real situation.” – mxyzplk - SE stop being evil Mar 14 at 18:49
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As per your comments the lack of equipment never stopped you from working from home before, quite the opposite, this is something you repeatedly wanted. And now that company mandates you to WFH (and for good reasons), you want to out of spite refuse to do it. You can call it "principle" or whatever, but whatever issues you have with the workplace, there are better ways to solve them than throwing a tantrum. For example asking a question here, describing the problems and see how people can help.

But I digress, so to the question:

Can I refuse to work from home, and still get paid for the time the office is closed?

That depends. If you are going to outright refuse to WFH, and won't comply with any suggestions - like that you can come to the office and pick up your work equipment, or work from an alternate location, then yes, they could deduct your pay, although they will likely burn your holiday time instead. On the other hand if you follow their instructions and communicate any issues then they would struggle to deduct pay in a way that's not violating a law or two.

Though you should also keep in mind that the employer almost always has the right to put you to different types of work (within reason) if doing your primary responsibilities is not possible. I am sure there are some mind-numbing jobs that need to be done, and can also be done from home.

But honestly, that would be least of my worries, and the following disciplinary action is something I would focus my energy on instead, as they gave you what you wanted, and in this vulnerable time instead of being happy about it, you decided to kick up a fuss about it. That's something which will need some explaining.

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If there are good reasons why you can't work from home, then you can't work from home. Good reasons why you can't work from home are rare - maybe because you are homeless, or you live in a place where you can't be indoors during day time.

If you refuse to work from home because you don't like working from home then you are refusing to work. Most likely your employer will take it as you taking a holiday if they are nice about it. If it is going on over weeks and you run out of holiday, the company will stop paying you. They can also probably fire you quite quickly about refusing to work, which is a breach of your contract.

Seriously, let's say your office closes down for four weeks, and when everyone returns, all your collegues have worked hard, while you haven't lifted a finger. What do you think is going to happen? Now let's say you come back with a lame excuse of your home undergoing renovation work, again what do you think is going to happen?

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  • Under UK law you can't be forced to work from home. You don't need a reason why. The point here is, they will be required to shut the office. I am available and willing to work (in the office) but it will be closed so I can't do any work. I think the only thing they would be able to do is make me redundant. – flexi Mar 14 at 14:07
  • @flexi "Under UK law you can't be forced to work from home." Citation needed, as I am unaware of anything like that in UK law. – Tymoteusz Paul Mar 14 at 14:38
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    @flexi - If you are hellbent on going down this path I'd at least check with an employment lawyer (normally available for free at the Citizens' Advice Bureau). – Laconic Droid Mar 14 at 14:39
  • Could you provide reference for that simply not wanting to work from home is not enough? Eg in my country this is enough. – guest Mar 14 at 16:36
  • @guest If you don't want to work from home that is indeed enough. Your employer will pay you for the work you do. – gnasher729 Mar 14 at 21:18
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The answer from @Tymoteusz Paul has given me some fresh perspective, so I am going to add an answer.

You wanted to work from home (wfh) and now refusing would be out of spite and only confirms to your employer that it's a painful process employees don't want.

Use this as another opportunity to show them wfh is to their benefit. If this situation passes and employees wfh without too many problems, then they might be more open to it in the future.

If this situation passes and nothing changes, then you think about moving to a company that will allow you the flexibility you want.

can I refuse to work from home, and still get paid for the time the office is closed?

(I am not a lawyer but this is my understanding) For the UK, you aren't required to give a reason why. You say that you can't wfh and that's it.

Your employer must still pay you if you are available and willing to work. Your employer could choose to provide you with an alternative work location, and they must provide the equipment unless your contract says otherwise.

The risk here is the alternative location may not be very nice, but if it's a small company they probably wont be able to do this because they will have responsibilities such as insurance and health and safety etc...

The likelihood is they will just take it out of your holiday or pay, and you will need to go to court to get it back etc... It just isn't worth it.

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    "For the UK, you aren't required to give a reason why. You say that you can't wfh and that's it." I don't believe that true, especially in your context, got a citation? – Tymoteusz Paul Mar 14 at 16:28
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    @TymoteuszPaul no. There is nothing in employment law to say they have the right to make someone work from home, so no reason is needed. – flexi Mar 14 at 18:21
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    @flexi So you've read the entirety of law, statutes, common law, acts of parliament and based on that you know it? I cannot argue with that, go ahead and roll with it.I would strongly recommend speaking to an actual lawyer first, but that's just me. – Tymoteusz Paul Mar 14 at 18:24
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    I said it was my understanding, based on logic, and some of the laws I have read, not that I am a lawyer with a 100% guarantee. I may be completely wrong. – flexi Mar 14 at 18:27
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    If an employer can force you to wfh that doesn't make logical sense. What about people that actually can't due to not having enough space... so 1 rule would apply to me, and a different rule to someone else based on their choice of property. Also logically it would mean they have a legal right to your personal property which isn't right. – flexi Mar 14 at 18:30

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