Employment Advice (For Business)
Flexible Working from Day One
Over the past 18 months, many employers who had previously been opposed to flexible working have had no choice but to get to grips with different ways of working. Compressed or split hours, working from home and adjusted working hours have become the norm, at least in many office-based sectors.
We are now seeing a gradual return to the office, and many employers are now adopting “hybrid” policies under which employees can split their time between home and the office. However, flexible working is nothing new. Pre-pandemic, any employee with more than 6 months’ service had the right to request flexible working, regardless of whether they are a carer or parent.
There are now signs that the Government is considering extending the right to request flexible working to “day one” employees. The Department of Business has been looking at flexible working since 2019 and the consultation paper expected to be released imminently will look at “day one” rights. It is also expected to consider measures to force employers to respond to flexible working request more quickly, and to have to explain why any requests are refused.
The move would be supported both by the Labour party and by the TUC, whose General Secretary has said that flexible working from day one “should be a right”.
Given that employers have been forced to incorporate flexible working during the pandemic, and will have found that employees are often more productive when working flexibly, it is to be hoped that the proposed changes will not be as daunting for employers as they may have seemed before the first lockdown.
Esther Marshall, a Senior Associate Solicitor in our Dispute Resolution team, said:
“Flexible working requests were traditionally thought to relate only to employees wishing to go part time. However, flexible working can encompass other changes to working hours, as well as changes of location. Requests do not have to be agreed, however employers must give them proper consideration and there must be a valid reason to refuse a request – “We don’t do that” will not suffice. If you are an employer and need some advice about how to deal with flexible working requests, we can guide you through the necessary steps to make sure your decision stands up to scrutiny.”