Analysis by HR consultancy Hamilton Nash found 42 tribunals cited remote working in 2022, 50% higher than the 27 cases in 2021. In the first half of 2023, there have already been 25 cases.
During the pandemic, many workers realised they preferred remote work, according to Jane Bradshaw-Jones, HR technical consultant at AdviserPlus.
Speaking to HR magazine, she said: "The rise in claims is likely down to employees knowing that their roles can be done flexibly and are in a strong position to evidence this.
"Denying flexible working requests is getting harder to justify as the past three years has proven that some jobs can be done just as effectively and efficiently solely based at home (or at least with some flexibility)."
Nationwide Building Society’s return to the office policy recently led to a successful tribunal claim from a former employee.
Jayne Follows, who the tribunal heard was a “top performer” at work and carer to an elderly and disabled mother, refused to give up her home working days and was later made redundant.
She successfully brought a claim of indirect disability discrimination and unfair dismissal against the bank, which was told to pay £350,000 in compensation.
Charlotte Gregson, UK country head of freelance platform Malt, said employers must be aware of factors which will make it difficult for employees to give up remote working.
She told HR magazine: “For some who moved away from big cities to solve the cost-of-living challenges, the return to office is not possible, especially if an organisation doesn’t incentivise travel.
“Instead, organisations should adopt a work-life fluidity strategy that requires acknowledging personal drives, ethics, and preferences.
“It demands transparent dialogue between managers and staff members to discover shared benefits between private and work-related commitments.”
Many back-to-office mandates are failing, according to a study from workplace consultancy AWA.
Its research found workers are coming in on average 1.4 days a week at companies that require office attendance twice a week, the same figure as those with no obligation to attend.
Gemma Dale, business lecturer at Liverpool John Moores University, said employers must be clear about why remote work isn’t effective for their organisation.
She said: “If you want people in the office and have a good reason for it then you need to make it clear why. Organisations need to think about making it worth it and need to give people a reason to come in, not a mandate.
“Most people desire autonomy and obligatory mandates work against this. Providing autonomy is good for wellbeing, motivation and engagement and blunt policies will only cause resentment.”