No allowances for working from home

We’ve asked about whether the University would be willing to make payments to cover the additional costs of working from home. Their response was that whilst people can claim for “legitimate expenses, such as paper and printing”, the cost pressures the University is under mean that there’s no ability to fund general costs, such as utility bills etc.

Obviously we’re disappointed with this, but not surprised. The usual message from the University is along the lines of we should all be grateful for what we’ve got rather than expecting more.

Other universities have been much more willing to recognise the efforts of their workforce with additional payments or additional closure days (effectively new bank holidays.) The University of Brighton tradition is lots of praise about how wonderful we all are, but only words to that effect, rather than anything that’s going to cost a few quid.

Even if a scheme were to be devised where people could make a claim for say £5/week if they felt they justified it, on the basis of an estimated 600 people claiming, that’s a cost of £21,000 so far into this crisis. It’s hardly going to represent a major cost compared to the goodwill it would generate. We think it’s a shame that such a minor request is met with such a firm no.

We appreciate that some people are saving money due to this situation, either by staying in more, or not incurring the costs of travelling to and from work, but that’s hardly the point. The reality is that some people are suffering financially for a number of reasons (not least because their pay has gone down as costs have gone up) and having to heat their new home workplaces has cost money. It’s a shame the University is being so mean about it, especially considering the colossal scale of financial problems which may be around the corner. If some predictions turn out to be reality, denying staff a £6/week WFH allowance is going to make no difference, except in terms of employee relations.

When it comes to legitimate expenses, our advice is to make a claim and challenge your manager to explain why they think it’s not legitimate. People have been told the cost of a hastily bought laptop is not allowed, and we can see that it’s not ideal if we all run out any buy ourselves more kit, but the £500 cost has to be seen against the cost of being unproductive for a week or more as the University source one. People are being penalised for showing some initiative in trying to make themselves available for work.

One thing you can do, rather than rely on your employer, is make a tax claim for working from home, in effect claiming tax relief on £6 per week. This involves asking HMRC to amend your tax code temporarily as long as you’re required to work from home i.e. not doing it voluntarily.

It probably makes sense to wait until you return to work and claim in one go, so that you know how long you need to claim for, rather than making multiple claims. Also, HMRC are probably currently dealing with thousands of claims.

We need to warn you though that we’re not looking at a large pay out here. For most taxpayers, relief on £6/week is worth £1.20 (20%)

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-income-tax-relief-for-your-employment-expenses-p87#claim-by-post

If you need some more practical guidance on how to do this, the best advice is probably here:

https://blog.moneysavingexpert.com/2020/04/martin-lewis–working-from-home-due-to-coronavirus–claim-p6-wk-/

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