The Leading News & Information Service For The Facilities, Workplace & Built Environment Community

Managing Flexible Working Requests – What is the Current Law?

Managing Flexible Working Requests – What is the Current Law?
09 April 2021 | Updated 14 April 2021

According to several media reports, ministers are preparing to make flexible working a permanent feature of UK life after the pandemic, with plans to strengthen employees' rights to work from home or ask for different hours.

The government will start a public consultation later this year on how to extend flexible working, potentially ensuring that people who have transitioned to a hybrid of home and office working during the pandemic will be able to maintain that pattern.

But what is the law on flexible working requests currently? Alan Price, CEO at HR software and support service Bright HR explains.


Evaluating Individual Requests


Even pre-pandemic, flexible working was becoming increasingly popular. Many staff who have maintained altered working arrangements during the pandemic, such as working from home, may want them to continue going forward. If it has been made clear that such arrangements were temporary, an employee could pursue this to make a flexible working request.

Currently, it is up to employers if they choose to permit flexible working. This means that while all employees who have worked for a company for at least 26 weeks can make one request every 12 months, their employer does not need to agree to this. That said, they do need to provide sound businesses reasons for a refusal, and any change is considered permanent unless agreed otherwise.

The response to flexible working requests must be handled consistently and fairly. Employers should clearly evaluate why they approve or reject each request and be prepared to justify why this is to staff. If it appears that some employee requests are being approved over others, this could give rise to claims of favouritism and even discrimination.


Flexible Working Policies 


To this end, the company's stance on flexible working should be made clear to staff through ongoing communications and the distribution of a policy, if one is available. This should clearly set out the process for flexible working requests, how they will be considered, and no guarantees that any requests will be approved.

Some employers may be tempted to implement a blanket approach to this, stating that homeworking will not become the "new normal" to discourage large numbers of requests for such an arrangement. However, they should remember that the ability to work flexibly may help with staff retention, maintain strong morale and even attract other talented individuals to the company that may not have come before. They should also bear in mind that individual circumstances are different; some staff may be better positioned to have increased flexibility due to the nature of their role than others, which should be considered.

Picture: a photograph of person working on a laptop, standing, with a glass of milk

Article written by Alan Price | Published 09 April 2021


Related Articles

46% of UK Employees Don’t Have Flexible Working Arrangements

New research from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development shows that nearly half of UK employees do not have flexible working in their current...

 Read Full Article
McAlpine's Flexes Muscles In Support Of Flexmakers Project

McAlpine's is supporting the Flex Appeal campaign and the launch of the Flexmakers project, which aims to explore flexible working solutions for employers and...

 Read Full Article
When is International Men’s Day?

We take a look at why this awareness day is so important and the role employers play in creating a more gender-balanced society. Observing the influx of celebratory...

 Read Full Article
The Best Co-Working Spaces in the UK

As the UK awaits the final stage of lockdown easing, research suggests workers are keen to swap home working for a more conventional office setup. Despite the obvious...

 Read Full Article
Work Near Home – Is This British Start-Up The Airbnb for Flexible Working?

A British tech start-up has launched a new app where employees and companies can find flexible office spaces nearer to where they live in more than 350...

 Read Full Article
The UK’s Most LGBTQ+ Inclusive Employers – What Practical Steps Do They Take?

This Pride Month, we are looking at what practical tips businesses can learn from the best-performing organisations from the UK Workplace Equality...

 Read Full Article
New Watchdog Launched to Protect Workers' Rights

The government is to create a body to reduce workplace abuse and modern slavery in the UK. The new workers’ watchdog is to take over responsibility for tackling...

 Read Full Article
Job Hopping Post-Pandemic – Looking for Change or Support?

Half of all UK employees are on the hunt for a new job following the start of the pandemic, according to a recent poll. How can FMs improve staff...

 Read Full Article
WHO Study Shows Long Working Hours Kills 745,000 People a Year

In the first global analysis of the loss of life and health associated with working long hours, it's been shown that working excessive hours led to 745,000...

 Read Full Article
Post-Furlough Anxiety – Reassuring FMs Returning to Work

Almost half (44 per cent) of furloughed FM professionals are anxious about their return to work, according to recruiter Randstad. A poll of almost 8,000 workers from...

 Read Full Article