THE laws governing the workplace need a major rethink after months of home working.

That is the case made in a report by a Southampton law firm, which takes into account such issues as mental health, “Zoom fatigue”, the “right to disconnect” and flexible working.

Paris Smith has released a white paper, The Workforce of the Future, which explores the challenges faced by employers in the “new normal”.

Clive Dobbin, partner at Paris Smith, said: “Employers now have to carefully consider whether they still wish to return to ‘business as normal’ or whether they should instead start to plan for a new normal which embraces flexible working.

“The law needs to be completely updated to give greater rights to challenge an employer’s refusal to allow homeworking.”

The report looks at leadership and how new ways of working can support employee wellbeing and productivity.

Dr Simon Fox, head of law at Solent University, told the authors: “We are living through a revolution. Working practices and the law evolve through time. Covid-19 has moved such an evolution into a revolution, as we are forced to make rapid and immediate changes to how we socialise, live and work.

“I am concerned that there needs to be a proper consideration of people’s wellbeing and their mental health, as well as their physical health, in regard to working remotely and working from home. That leads back to the law needing to adjust and keep pace.”

Hannah Leach, vice president of employee experience and culture at Carnival UK, which operates the P&O Cruises & Cunard brands, said: “Leaders have a critical role in setting a vision for the future that enables their people to see beyond the near-term crisis; that helps people understand their role in getting to brighter, better days.

“The learnings from the last few months are much broader than home vs office. We’re interested to explore new ways of working that support wellbeing and productivity.”

The report also considers what the changes mean for physical offices and for town and city centres.

Andrew Edmonds, managing partner at Southampton accountancy firm Smith & Williamson, said: “The buzz phrase around the firm seems to be ‘Come to the office to collaborate, go home to work.”

The report can be found here.

Other contributors to the report include Draper Tools, KPMG, global farming and food group Barfoots, accountants Smith & Williamson, Marwell Wildlife, TW Metals, King Edward VI School and GO! Southampton.