Research has revealed a growing inclination for employees to assert their rights and take their employer to task over work-related matters post-pandemic. The Mind the Gap report from Employment Law, HR and Health & Safety specialist WorkNest, which is based on a survey of over 490 employers and 1,000 employees, found that 28% of employees wouldn’t hesitate to take action against their employer on a work issue.

18% said they would do so because they understood their rights as an employee, and a further 10% said they would take action anyway – even if they weren’t sure of their rights – if they felt they had been unfairly treated. Only a quarter (26%) said they would put off taking legal action due to not being ‘fully clued up’ on their legal rights.

The research suggests that the pandemic has played a part in emboldening employees and raising their awareness of the options available to them when facing work-related disputes. In fact, the same percentage of employees (28%) say their experience at work during the pandemic, and what they have learned about their rights during this time, has made them more likely to take action against their employer in future.

James Tamm, Director of Legal Services at WorkNest, commented: “Whether it’s been fallouts over furlough, employees feeling that workplace safety measures aren’t up to scratch, or disagreements over new working arrangements and policies, the pandemic has been a real catalyst for workplace disputes. Our research suggests that all of this has been a learning curve for employees, many of whom have done their homework on the legalities of such issues and feel more confident in asserting their position in future armed with the knowledge they have now.”

And it seems businesses are aware of this fact. When asked whether they would put off taking action against their employees on a work issue, 64% of business decision makers said yes, with 31% attributing this to employees being more aware of their rights. Other factors precluding employers from enforcing their position include concerns about making a mistake (21%) and the inability to easily replace staff (12%). Just 33% said they had the knowledge within the business or external support required to confidently navigate these situations.

James Tamm said: “This paints a worrying picture. While employees are now more motivated to take issues further, employers are more reluctant to take action against their workforce. Given the staff shortages facing many sectors and the increased opportunities due to remote working, it might feel like employees are in the driving seat and employers’ hands are tied. Businesses will need good knowledge of employment law, solid policies, and confident and competent managers to get around this, as failing to take action where it’s needed could set a dangerous precedent about what employees can get away with.