Can employers force employees to come back to the workplace?

Managing HR is challenging at the best of times! We are here to answer your queries and provide up to date HR advice on what is impacting businesses today.

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Getting employees back into the workplace

There have been a lot of queries on whether employers can force employees to come back whether on a full time or hybrid basis and what rights the employees have.

Essentially, employees are obliged to meet the terms of their employment contract which will state where the normal place of work is. While during the pandemic this changed for many employees, now that the guidelines are to phase back into the workplace, this will now be applicable again.

However, we are advising employers to act cautiously. Before implementing any changes we recommend developing a plan based on your specific business needs and the circumstances and needs of your employees. There is no one solution that will work across all businesses and for all roles. Collaborate and communicate with your employees and agree a plan. If at that point terms and policies need to be changed, they should be done so with the full agreement of both the employer and the employee.

5 Key Points to consider when returning to work


In the transition back to a new routine post-pandemic, virtually all employees will likely have personal challenges competing for their energy and attention. Preparation and showing care, kindness and wellbeing will be key success factors. Ensure managers are ready for this, and know what supports are available.


With everyone socially isolating for over a year, there will need to be an induction and integration process to support people on returning to the workplace. Regardless of whether individuals are coming back to an onsite or hybrid model, how things work, COVID-19 response, where things now are, use of desks and equipment will have changed for many.


Big gaps emerged during the pandemic around team working, collaboration and innovation (CIPD HR Practices in Ireland 2021). These have to be purposefully built into time onsite and blended working models, so time at the workplace provides face-to-face engagement, both formal and informal. If everyone is working blended, things like face-to-face meetings, team collaboration, have to be planned so the right people are on site on the right days.


Equality and parenting/caring issues will have to closely managed. This will require close monitoring and interventions to deliver equality and fairness, and attract and retain minority groups. Hybrid working is a positive way to enhance flexibility. Employees have more choice over when, where and how they work, and employers will be able to attract and retain a more diverse pool of employees and those with skills in demand.


One of the biggest challenges for leaders and managers will be the culture – bringing people together again around a common mission, purpose and ways of working. A gap has already emerged between those working remotely and essential onsite workers in some companies so getting everyone to re-engage on a common agenda will be critical.


Need more help? Voltedge Management team can help you to get advice on all aspects of human resources and management. Email Ingrid at or ring our offices at 01 525 2914.