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1.6 million employees regularly worked from home last year, according to new analysis published by the TUC today (Friday) to mark National Work from Home Day.

The analysis shows that 1 in 16 (6.1% of the workforce) worked from home in 2017 – unchanged from the year before, but up from 1 in 20 (5.1%) in 2005.

The analysis reveals that:

  • Gender: 4 out of 10 homeworkers are women (41%). The gap with male workers has reduced somewhat since 2005 when women made up 35% of homeworkers.
  • Age: The proportions of homeworkers increases with age, with 16-19 years olds least likely to home work (2%) and over 60s most likely (11%).
  • Region/nation: The South West has the highest percentage of employees working from home (9%), and Northern Ireland the lowest (2%).
  • Industry: Agriculture has the biggest share of employees (23%), followed by the information and communication sector, where nearly one in five works from home (18%). Accommodation and food services is the lowest (1%).
  • Occupation: Managers are most likely to work from home (12%) followed by ‘Associate Professionals’ (9%) such as architects, engineers and designers. In contrast, the lowest rate of homeworking is ‘Elementary Occupations’ (2%) such as cleaners, unskilled manufacturing labourers and street vendors.

While some work can only be done on premises, the TUC believes that there is still greater opportunity for home working in most employment.

There are around 4 million more UK workers who say they would like to work from home for at least some of their working week but are not given the chance.

For employers, homeworking makes recruitment easier, can increase productivity, and reduce premises costs.

For workers, homeworking can save time and money on commutes, give more flexibility over working time, and make it easier for carers and parents doing the school run.

Home working is also an important way for some disabled people to access the labour market. Around 200,000 disabled people currently work from home regularly, and the TUC believes that homeworking could play an even larger role in helping to close the employment gap with non-disabled workers.

The TUC believes that there is still employer resistance to home working from many, despite the benefits that it brings. And lack of access to fast and reliable internet may be a constraint in some parts of the UK.

TUC General Secretary Frances O'Grady said:

“Lots of people would like to work from home but have not been given the chance by their boss. That’s a shame, because it can benefit employers as well as workers.

“Homeworking can improve productivity and it can stop the loss of experienced staff when they need more flexibility for family responsibilities. It has wider benefits too, like less traffic and pollution, more accessible work for disabled people, and keeping premises costs down.

“Many bosses already recognise that homeworking can make staff happier and more effective. But other employers need to catch up. Trade unions can help negotiate home working policies that work positively for both employers and staff.

“The government can help by investing in broadband infrastructure so that every worker can get a high-speed connection at home. And we encourage businesses and public services to include homeworking in job design and recruitment.”

Chief Executive of Work Wise UK, the organiser of National Work from Home Day, Phil Flaxton said:

“During the past decade there has been a substantial increase in 21st century Employers who have embraced modern, smarter working practices, such as homeworking, to the benefit of their organisation and its Employees. However, it is clear than even more Employers need to follow their example by introducing new ways of working that reflect the changing world of work.”

“Organisations that do not embrace these modern working practices and discuss with Employees how and where they work, may find it detrimental to productivity and staff retention levels.”

“For an increasing number of the UK’s working population the world of work has changed and it no longer confined to commuting to a place of work five days a week.”

Editors note

- National Work from Home Day (Friday 18 May 2018) is organised by Work Wise UK, a non-profit campaign group aiming to drive smarter working practices in the UK. More information is available at www.workwiseuk.org

- Number of employees (thousands) who regularly work from home in 2017

2005

2016

2017

Number

Proportion

Number

Proportion

Number

Proportion

Men

814

6.4%

965

7.1%

976

7.1%

Women

452

3.7%

672

5.1%

672

5.0%

All

1,267,

5.1%

1,637

6.1%

1,648

6.1%

Source: ONS Labour Force Survey Q4

- Number of employees who regularly work from home by nation/region in 2017

Number 2017

% of workforce

North East

53

4.9%

North West

159

5.3%

Yorkshire & Humberside

136

6.1%

East Midlands

124

6.3%

West Midlands

127

5.5%

East

160

6.2%

London

196

5.2%

South East

312

8.1%

South West

195

8.6%

Wales

64

5.4%

Scotland

105

4.6%

Northern Ireland

17

2.4%

UK

1,648

6.1%

Source: ONS Labour Force Survey Q4

- Number of employees who regularly work from home by industry in 2017

Number 2017

% of workforce

Agriculture forestry and fishing

40

23.0%

Manufacturing

165

6.1%

Electricity, gas and air supply

19

10.3%

Water, sewage and waste

14

6.0%

Construction

187

13.7%

Wholesale and retail

119

3.1%

Transport and storage

40

3.1%

Accommodation and food services

21

1.3%

Information and communication

189

18.3%

Finance and insurance

75

6.5%

Real estate

28

10.1%

Professional, scientific and technical

207

11.6%

Admin and support

106

8.8%

Public administration and defence

70

3.6%

Education

87

2.9%

Health and social work

159

4.1%

Arts, entertainment and recreation

40

6.2%

Other service activities

56

9.2%

All industries

1,648

6.1%

Source: ONS Labour Force Survey Q4

- Number of employees who regularly work from home by occupation category in 2017

Number 2017

% of workforce

Managers, Directors and Senior Officials

317

12.2%

Professional Occupations

368

6.5%

Associate Professional and Technical

350

9.1%

Administrative and Secretarial

184

5.8%

Skilled Trades

163

7.7%

Caring, Leisure and Other Services

103

3.9%

Sales and Customer Service

57

2.4%

Process, Plant and Machine Operatives

44

2.6%

Elementary Occupations

61

2.0%

All occupations

1,648

6.1%

- Number of employees who regularly work from home by age in 2017

Number 2017

% of workforce

16-19

19

1.9%

20-29

171

2.8%

30-39

348

5.5%

40-49

436

7.3%

50-59

446

7.8%

60 and above

228

10.7%

All ages

1,648

6.1%

Source: ONS Labour Force Survey Q4

- Demand for homeworking: Figures derived from the official Fourth Work Life Balance Survey (2013) point to unmet demand for homeworking of around four million. Our labour market intelligence suggests that improved connectivity is likely to have increased demand since then.

-  Broadband coverage: Statistics for 2017 indicate that 27.1% of users cannot achieve the minimum decent speed of 10,mbs: House of Commons Library briefing, January 2018:   https://researchbriefings.parliament.uk/ResearchBriefing/Summary/CBP-8200#fullreport

- Homeworking guidance: Acas have issued guidance for employers and workers on working from home: http://www.acas.org.uk/media/pdf/7/r/Homeworking-a-guide-for-employers-and-employees.pdf

- About the TUC: The Trades Union Congress (TUC) exists to make the working world a better place for everyone. We bring together more than 5.5 million working people who make up our 49 member unions. We support unions to grow and thrive, and we stand up for everyone who works for a living.