The latest government guidance is that workers who can work from home, should do so, but if they need to attend the workplace then they can.  Essentially, the government has shifted the decision about working from home back onto employers.

The government now proposes to give all employees the right to request flexible working when they start their jobs and the Flexible Working Bill was put to Parliament at the end of 2021. At present, workers have to wait until they have been in their role for six months before raising a formal request for flexible working.  The proposals would also require bosses to respond to requests for flexible working more quickly than the current maximum of three months and it would force firms to explain why any requests were refused.

Existing Law

If employees want to work in a way that is different from the one stated in their contract, then they have to obtain permission from their employer. All employees have the legal right to request a new working arrangement and the formal process is known as a flexible working request.  Businesses are required to approach such requests in a “reasonable manner”.

When making such a request, employees must give their reasons for doing so and any evidence that shows how their new way of working will not impact on their performance. This will help the employer to consider the request, and if they do not agree with what the employer is asking for, may be suggest a compromise.

Many employees have been managing their work alongside childcare responsibilities or care for other dependants or have been working their usual working day over longer hours during lockdown. To the extent that employees feel that this arrangement has worked for them, the employee may have already gone some way in proving to their employer that they can carry out their role successfully at home going forward (permanently or for at least part of the working week).

There are eight statutory grounds for rejecting a flexible working request:

  • it will cost your business too much
  • you cannot reorganise the work among other staff
  • you cannot recruit more staff
  • there will be a negative effect on quality
  • there will be a negative effect on the business’ ability to meet customer demand
  • there will be a negative effect on performance
  • there’s not enough work for your employee to do when they’ve requested to work
  • there are planned changes to the business, for example, you intend to reorganise or change the business and think the request will not fit with these plans

Bosses may find it difficult to demonstrate that there will be a detrimental impact on quality or performance of work in the long term – especially if there was no such impact throughout the period of lockdown.

Businesses should record that they have considered each and every request made, including the reason(s) for it and how it might be dealt with. This way employees understand why their request may have been rejected and are less inclined to appeal and/or worse, file a claim.

Get in Touch

For more information please email [email protected] or telephone 0118 958 9711.