Flexible working arrangements include part-time working, flexitime and job-sharing. An increasingly popular flexible working trend is that of ‘hybrid’ working, which allows employees to work both in the workplace and at a remote location, such as their home. Employees with over 26 weeks service have a statutory right to request flexible working, and requests are becoming increasingly common as we move to the ‘new normal’ post-pandemic and many businesses are finding such arrangements are key for recruitment and retention of their workforce.
Employees have a statutory right to request flexible working. Requests must be dealt with reasonably and within three months from the date it was made.
Employers who receive a request should ensure:
Employers should also be aware that requests to work flexibly – especially from home – can be made on an informal basis. It is important that employers also treat these requests reasonably.
There is a useful guide here.
Having your own flexible/hybrid working policy is recommended to accommodate both statutory requirements and other arrangements specific to your organisation. Effective policies and procedures can help ensure requests are dealt with in a coherent and uniform manner.
Any flexible working policy will need to include the statutory scheme at least, but can also include provisions aimed at those who fall outside of the statutory eligibility rules.
Employers can also consider implementing a specific hybrid working policy, covering hybrid working on a discretionary basis, without the need for a formal request to be made. This approach could limit the amount of statutory flexible working requests made.
It may also be worth including a reciprocal ‘opt out’ clause for arrangements, giving employees a chance to move back to the workplace as and when requested, as well as a review period in which changes can be reverted if not working as well as planned.
Where flexible working requests are agreed, this is likely to be a change in an employee’s employment contract and should be appropriately recorded. See our summary here.
A refusal to accommodate flexible or hybrid working could amount to indirect discrimination in certain circumstances. For example, the requirement for a disabled person to be in the workplace may disadvantage them disproportionately.
Additionally, employers need to ensure part time workers are not treated less favourably than full time workers with comparable roles.
In considering requests and policies, it is worth keeping the following in mind:
It is important to be aware of the potential issues and seek advice if necessary. Please get in touch with one of our specialist Employment Law team for further assistance below.