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Flexible Working Requests are on the rise!

Employers are likely to be facing an increase in flexible working requests as many employees return to the office following long periods of home working having become used to the more hybrid-style of working forced upon many by the pandemic.

Flexible working has been in the news recently. Firstly, the widely publicised decision by the Employment Tribunal to award almost £185,000 to a mother whose flexible working request was refused by her employer, and secondly with news that the Government is considering the possibility of employees having the right to request flexible working as soon as they start their employment, (rather than having to wait 26 weeks as the current position is).

Employers are likely to face an increase in flexible working requests as many employees return to the office. Long periods of home working have allowed employees to become used to the more hybrid-style of working forced upon many by the pandemic. It is important therefore that employers are prepared for responding to the requests and do so in line with their legal obligations. Employers are required to:

  • Deal with a flexible working request in a reasonable manner;
  • Deal with the whole process within a 3-month period; and
  • If refusing the request, do so for one (or more) of eight specific reasons set out in the legislation.

Whilst dealing with such a request in a “reasonable manner” is vague, the ACAS Code on dealing with flexible working requests advises employers that the request should be discussed with the employee. They should consider requests carefully, weighing up the advantages, possible costs and logistical implications of granting the request, and offer the right to appeal if not agreeing to the request.

To ensure you are handling flexible working requests correctly, we would advise you take the following steps:

  1. Have a written policy setting out how flexible working applications will be dealt with, and ensure that those employees who will be deciding on the requests fully understand the policy and their obligations;
  2. Keep accurate records of the reasoning given for either agreeing or refusing any requests. This will help with consistency in dealing with requests, and also explain why a request is refused when others have been accepted;
  3. If the employee’s request is to be rejected because of one of the eight grounds, try to work with the employee to find an alternative arrangement that does work for both sides. Bear in mind that given the success for many businesses in remote working during the pandemic, it may be more difficult to justify for example, why an employee cannot work from home for part of the week;
  4. Try to have a positive perspective to the request. Employment Tribunals have been critical where the approach of the employer seems to be why the proposal will not work rather than looking at ways it could be accommodated; and
  5. Consider a trial period to see whether the new arrangements are sustainable

Would you know how to handle a flexible working request from an employee? Would you be able to provide all relevant documentation?

If you require a flexible working policy drafting or need advice on a flexible working application you have received, please contact us at Dawson Radford and we will be happy to help.


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