Friday, 04 September 2020 06:55

Caution with Flexible Working Requests

Before Covid, we had seen a notable rise in the number of employees requesting flexible working requests. Work/life balance had increasingly become a leading factor in people’s employer and career choices and requests for changes in working hours or conditions had started to come from employees of all generations; Millennials as well as the more anticipated Baby Boomers.

The coronavirus pandemic has changed everything of course and the Government’s job retention scheme provided a sample of not having to work so hard to around 9 million furloughed workers. Most of these employees would have had at least 80% of their pay still intact and so it’s understandable if during the lockdown months their taste developed for not working quite as much.

Those working from home also saw benefits. Time spent getting dressed and ready for work and then commuting could be better used to be more productive, for exercise or a little self indulgence.

With schools starting a perhaps tentative return to a pre-Covid timetable, and the Government actively promoting a return to the workplace for most workers, should we expect a steep rise in requests for flexible working?

Employees have a statutory right to be able to ask their employer to make a change to their contractual working terms and conditions; provided they have worked continually for that employer for a period of 26 weeks at the time of the request. Employers are obliged to consider any such requests and agree to the changes unless they have a sound business reason.

Flexibility in work can extend beyond working hours alone. Changes in place of work, job sharing, shift work and flexitime are all aspects that workers can ask to be amended under a flexible working request and they must be given due consideration.

We have heard many stories of businesses claiming that actually, office space is over-rated and their staff have proved to be much more productive working from home. Some companies stand to make significant savings on office rent and rate bills by agreeing for their staff to work from home. But is it the right choice for everyone?

Agreeing to a flexible working request may seem like an easy decision to make but let’s not forget that once agreed, there’s no going back. Unless stipulated as temporary, flexible working requests amount to a permanent change of terms and conditions. The coronavirus pandemic means we are still very much in a state of un-knowing, so it might be foolhardy to agree to changes to contracts that you might want to rescind in the future.

We should also remember that it’s a two-way street. We’ve had a pretty good summer on the whole and a well managed homeworking schedule could mean a full day’s work is achievable whilst leaving an hour or two to spend in the garden. A touch of frosty weather might change all of that though and cost of having the heating on all day at home might make the prospect of a toast warm office quite appealing.

For the time being we recommend that changes to working hours and conditions remain flexible and temporary. Flexibility in working arrangements might be a lure for new employees but we’re not out of the Covid woods yet so it’s advisable to maintain control over how, when and where your employees carry out their work.

Make sure your contracts of employment are carefully worded, clear and unambiguous. Should a problem or disagreement arise, your contracts are what you’ll need to turn to should you need to lay down the law.

For help and support with implementing flexible working arrangements and with changes to contracts, call us on 01452 331331 or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Read 1331 times Last modified on Friday, 04 September 2020 06:58


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