Many firms, including Google, are exploring the idea that staff could see a pay cut if they fail to return to the office and continue to work from home.

On Monday, it was reported that civil servants may receive a pay cut if they resist a return to the office.

Following this, Google has announced that employees could see their pay docked if they choose to work from home permanently, as offices begin to allow workers back.

Facebook and Twitter are also contemplating cutting pay for remote employees who have since move to less expensive locations.

In the case of Google, long-distance commuters and remote employees could be faced with a pay cut without moving.

The pandemic has provided employees with an opportunity to prove the viability of remote working, but many companies, such as Google, wish to see staff returning to in-person work.

Google’s decision follows the words of Goldman Sachs boss David Solomon, who described working from home as an “aberration” rather than “the new normal”.

Smaller companies such as Reddit, an American social news aggregation, and Zillow, an online real estate marketplace company, have stated that they will not be changing pay because of where employees are based or whether they choose to work remotely, saying this improves diversity and staff retention.

In relation to UK employment law, employers cannot alter aspects of contracts without the consent of the employee, or without terminating the contract.

Susan Kelly, Partner in the employment practice at Winckworth Sherwood, said:

It is our belief that employers will, of course, have discussions around compensation measures when there are differences in working locations but ultimately putting any measures into practice may prove too complex.

It’s also worth noting that many of those who choose to continue working from home will be those with caring responsibilities and it is widely and judicially accepted that women still bear the brunt of childcare, so employers could risk entering into the territory of indirect discrimination.

The CIPD has stated that imposing a pay cut is “high-risk”, as it will demoralise employees, but workers could also claim a breach of contract or even constructive unfair dismissal.