The flexible approach to work

Since the Prime Minister’s lockdown announcement in March, millions of people have been working from home for the first time joining many people that already regularly work from home.

Employees with 26 weeks’ service with their employer have the right to make a flexible working request in each 12 month period.

Requests could include working from home or elsewhere, reducing hours, changing times of work, doing hours over fewer days or sharing the job with someone. Any application made must be in writing.

An employer must deal with a flexible working request in a reasonable manner and deal with it within three months.

Employers are only able to refuse a request on specific business grounds:

  • Burden of extra costs
  • Cannot reorganise the work among other staff
  • Cannot recruit more staff
  • Negative effect on quality
  • Negative effect on the business’ ability to meet customer demand
  • Negative effect on performance
  • Not enough work hours requested
  • Planned reorganisation/change

Since lockdown, businesses have been forced to invest in technology and create alternative ways of working. Many employees have enjoyed the advantages of flexible working and have seen the significant improvement in work-life balance, mental health along with the benefit of less commuting time and cost.

Studies show that increased flexibility sees substantial enhancements in productivity, morale and engagement amongst staff along with employee retention. It can also allow for a reduction in on-site overheads and enable extended opening hours to benefit customers where there are flexible working hours rather than the traditional 9am-5pm.

Some businesses are wary of changes in working practices, particularly remote working, because they may feel that they are not able to control or measure the number of hours that their staff are working. When considering remote working, it is important to set consistent and clear goals and maintain results-orientated approaches so that staff can remain focused on tangible objectives.

It has been widely reported that many large businesses are to increase flexibility in the workplace including remote working.

The coronavirus pandemic may mean that businesses transition from tolerating some forms of flexible working to fully embracing them acknowledging the benefits that can be achieved from flexible working

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