Flexible working and the pandemic
Oct 15, 2021
It seems it’s taken a pandemic to show just how adaptable we can all be to different ways of living our lives.
The workplace is one environment that has undergone huge change. The idea of flexible working has been elevated in the minds, aims and needs of employees and employers. But it remains something that will need to be worked through; it’s not without its challenges.
There will always be a balance to be struck between an employee’s requirement for some form of flexibility – whether in terms of where, when or how they work – and their employer’s responsibility to protect its interests. Recent times have shown us that remote working, for example, is doable. But an employer may have a legitimate business reason to refuse an employee’s request to continue that arrangement permanently. The flexible working regime provides for requests to be turned down on certain bases, including the additional costs involved, and the detrimental effects the proposed arrangement could have on meeting customer demand. Employers must therefore make sure to understand the statutory process and their legal responsibilities - not least to deal fairly and reasonably with requests.
And there could be some developments on the horizon. The government is currently consulting on proposals to make it possible for employees to make a statutory flexible working request from the first day of their employment. Currently, employees must have at least 26 weeks’ continuous service before being able to do so. Other aspects of the statutory regime (including whether employees should be able to make more than one request per year) are also being looked at. Businesses could therefore soon see an increase in the number of flexible working requests they receive, as new recruits look to better balance their work and home life.
The experience of pandemic is likely to have a bearing on the arrangements employers and employees come to. For many, there is now a tried and tested basis for remote working, flexible hours etc. Systems will have been adapted to allow those things to happen. The culture is shifting. And so, unlike years ago, the question for managers and HR may be less: ‘what’s our reason to say no?’, and more: ‘how can we make this work?’.
For advice about flexible working, or any other employment law issue, contact us on 01264 353411 or email email@example.com.
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