Flexible working in 2022: What do employers need to know?
Over the last few years, we have seen a vast amount of employees working from home, altering their hours and diverging away from the traditional working environment. Employees have become increasingly aware of their rights and in particular their rights in relation flexible working arrangements. The present climate of employees makes it essential for employers to know how to deal with flexible working requests and the criteria they need to consider.
In order for individuals to submit a request, they must satisfy the following criteria:
- They must be an employee
- They must have 26 weeks of service
- They must not have made a flexible request application within the last 12 months
However, employees who are parents, carers or returning from maternity leave are entitled to submit a request regardless of their length of service or previous requests.
The request must be in writing and once submitted the employer must consider it in a reasonable manner, responding to it within 3 months (unless otherwise agreed with the employee).
If a request is accepted, the employer must update and amend the employee’s contract in line with the change(s). It is therefore beneficial for employers to inform their employees that this will occur prior to them submitting any requests. Employers can also benefit from educating their employees on the difference between smart working, hybrid working, flexible working and home working. Doing so can help to enable employees to make specific requests subsequently making it easier for them to be met by the employer.
Should an employer seek to reject the request, then they can do so by relying on one or more of the following reasons:
- The burden of additional costs
- Planned structural changes
- Insufficiency of work during the periods the employee proposes to work
- Inability to reorganise work amongst other staff
- Inability to recruit more staff to complete the work
- An expected detrimental effect on the employee’s quality of work and performance
- If accepting the request would prevent the business from meeting customer demand
We know that Covid-19 has changed the way that people work. Since the pandemic, we have seen an emerging workforce of employees who are becoming increasingly aware of their rights resulting in a shift in bargaining power amongst employees and employers. Employees are focusing more on how they work, when they work and where they work rather than focusing just on their workload and wages.
According to the Office of National Statistics' (ONS) Opinions and Lifestyle Survey (OPN) approximately 78% of the working population reported in May 2022 that they had improved their work life balance by either working from home exclusively or in a hybrid way.
Improvements in a work life balance can have a positive effect on productivity levels, allowing hybrid-working structures to benefit both employees and employers. With mental welfare often being at the forefront of employees’ minds, it is essential for employers to understand how to retain their employees and accommodate their needs when they can.
Should you require any further advice on this topic please do get in touch with us at Ince.
This article was written by Ellie Jones who is a trainee solicitor in Ince's Bristol employment team.