With significant increases in cost of living, including the upsurge in fuel and costs of travel to work, together with working parents thinking about the new school year in September 2022, we believe that we will see an marked increase in the number of flexible working request being made.
All employees have a legal right to request flexible working and must have worked for the same employer for 26 weeks to be eligible. This does not however stop an employer considering any flexible request from an employee with less than 26 weeks service.
The constraints of the pandemic resulted in some creative approaches with a new way of working and working solutions that go beyond simply working remotely and more and more employees are seemingly thinking about how, when and where they work.
Flexible working usually relates to an employee’s working arrangement in terms of the time, location and pattern of work. However, employers could see some unusual requests as there are a range of flexible working options that employees can request.
Staggered hours: This type of request sees a request for different start and finish times compared to the standard working hours. This request could benefit an employee who is not able to work from home and can benefit from off peak travel thus reducing cost and time. The hours would be set within an employees’ contract of employment.
Flexitime: Choosing when to start and end work (within agreed limits) but often working core hours such as 10am to 4pm every day. This allows similar benefits to staggered hours in the off-peak travel. This is where employees work a set number of hours within a fixed period of time. However, if you have a large number of employees, this may be difficult to track and may require close time management.
Part time working: Reducing working hours. This are often requested to fit in around school drop off and pick up times or a range of caring responsibilities but could be requested for a number or reasons.
Hybrid Working: This is a form of flexible working that a lot of company’s are familiar with where employees travel into the office for some of the week and work remotely for the remainder.
Flexible working request are specific to each employee and we would recommend that they should always be considered on a case-by-case request and one size may not fit all.
Temporary flexible working arrangements may have been introduced informally during the pandemic so many employers may now be used to dealing with such requests. However, for a flexible working request and permanent change, an employee must make the request in writing.
advo would always recommend that a process regarding any request for flexible working is followed. It is important that there is a clear paper trail as ‘ad hoc’ verbal agreements can often lead to misunderstanding and some difficulties. This can be especially tricky if this goes on for some time and the informal agreement no longer suits the needs of the business.
If you receive a flexible working request, it is important that it is dealt with fairly and consistently.
There are certain timeframes within which a flexible working request must be responded. However, despite the regulatory time frames which must be adhered to, any employee who has made such request may be anxious as to whether their request will be successful and worried about plans that they made need to make, e.g. childcare. For this reason, advo would always urge all employers to address any requests in a timely manner and also, please bear in mind, that any agreed change in working arrangements may also mean that the you, the employer has to make other arrangements to accommodate the request.
An employee can only make one application for flexible working each year, and you must consider all requests carefully. There are certain legal aspects which employers must be able to tangibly quantify if wishing to reject any application. advo would recommend negotiation and trying to accommodate if not all, but a compromised arrangement. Please always consider other implications of reject an application, such as losing a potential employee through resignation, increased sickness absence and a decrease of performance. There may also be a broader business impact, such as the wider workforce viewing the business as being awkward and unsupportive!
It may therefore be worth turning such requests on their head and examining the benefits, such as an increase in productivity, ability to work flexibly outside the regular office hours, decrease in absenteeism and greater employee engagement.
Any formal change which has been agreed to an employees’ working arrangement should be formalised and amended in the employees’ contract of employment.
We would point out that there are implications of not following the statutory procedure with regards to flexible working requests and if an employee is subject to any detriment by submitting a flexible working request, this could result in a claim being brought at the Employment Tribunal. Please be aware that, in relation to flexible working, a claim to the Employment Tribunal can be made whilst the employee is still working for you!
We do expect an increase in flexible working requests and should you receive such a request or require any help at all, please don’t hesitate to contact the HR team at advo or talk to your dedicated HR consultant.