According to the BBC, 43 out of 50 of the UK’s biggest employers do not plan to bring staff back to the office full time after restrictions ease, with hybrid working – part of the week in the office and part of the week at home – becoming the norm.
The pandemic has normalised a lot of things that would have been almost unheard of before. For example, starting a new job without meeting colleagues face to face or stepping foot in the office has become a common occurrence in recent times. It is unclear at the moment which changes will stick and there has been much said about what the average working week and city centres might eventually look like.
Right to request flexible working
All employees with over 26 weeks service are entitled to make a flexible working request.
Flexible working covers everything from working from home, job sharing, part time, flexi-time, staggered hours, compressed hours, anything that isn’t full time in the office.
Your employer does not have to agree to a flexible working request, but must deal with the request reasonably and within three months (unless you agree otherwise).
You should be invited to a meeting to discuss the request, and ideally there should be an appeal process if the request is rejected.
The request can only be refused on one of eight business grounds:
- extra costs that will damage the business;
- the work cannot be reorganised among other staff;
- people cannot be recruited to do the work;
- flexible working will affect quality and performance;
- the business will not be able to meet customer demand;
- there’s a lack of work to do during the proposed working times; and
- the business is planning changes to the workforce.
Your request should be dated, in writing and to state that it is being made under the statutory procedure.
Set out how you want to work and when you want it to start.
Think about the grounds upon which your employer might refuse the request or any changes that might be required for the proposed change to work. If you have worked flexibly during the pandemic and it has worked, then you can draw on this.
Your employer will have more flexibility to reject a request when work from home rules are lifted, is there anything that did not work so well, can this be mitigated in any way?
Think carefully about your request: once agreed, your contract will be permanently changed and you will not be able to make another request for at least 12 months.
If it goes wrong
You can bring an employment tribunal claim if your request was handled unreasonably or if you are treated badly as a result of making it.
There is a very short time limit to making a claim, so it is important to seek legal advice early.