Hybrid Working – Is It Here To Stay And What Are The Consequences For Employers?

Flexible working employee

Before the Covid-19 pandemic there were an estimated 18% of employees in the UK doing some form of homeworking with only 2% working mainly from home. Now at least 37% of employees are regularly working from home with 22% always working from home. This is an extraordinary change in working habits and has led many employers and employees to embrace the flexibility that comes with hybrid working. For employees it has led to a better work/life balance, less commuting and possibly lower childcare costs. For employers it has given them a happier workforce, the ability to downsize property costs/overheads, increased productivity and reputational benefits.

The pandemic has however not changed the law as it relates to flexible working.

Employees have the right to request changes to their working pattern or location and employers are under a duty to consider it. Before the pandemic it was relatively easy to reject flexible working applications provided an employer highlighted a material adverse impact on its business. Employers would now need to give more careful thought before rejecting such requests and be prepared to explain in much more detail their reasons for doing so. There is also likely to be an increase in the number of employees willing to challenge decisions that do not go their way and assert their right to bring discrimination claims, mostly likely based on the protected characteristics of sex, disability and age.

The Government’s launch in September last year of a consultation on flexible working may increase coverage of these statutory rights leading to an increase in flexible working applications. The Government consultation includes a specific proposal to introduce the right to flexible working as a ‘day one’ right, which if implemented could certainly increase the number of applications although probably not significantly as many employees will be concerned about asking their new employer to make immediate changes to their new terms of employment. Another proposal is to reduce the time limit for considering an application from three months would seem reasonable as it shouldn’t take nearly a quarter of year to make a decision. However, the Government is considering reducing the time limit to only 2 weeks, which is unworkable and puts employers at risk of a tribunal claim for up to 8 week’ pay by way of compensation even if the delay did not affect the outcome.

At least for the foreseeable future hybrid working looks here to stay and is clearly of benefit to both employers and employees. However, only time will tell us whether the balance of power to make flexible working requests has permanently shifted towards employees making the hybrid working model the ‘new normal’.

For advice or further information on hybrid working and handling a flexible working request, call Henry Doswell of Doswell Law Solicitors on 01233 722942. Alternatively, email Henry at henry@doswell-law.com

Disclaimer: Whilst every reasonable effort is made to make the information and commentary contained in this blog accurate and up to date, Henry Doswell takes no responsibility for its accuracy and correctness, or for any consequences of relying on it. The information and commentary in this blog does not constitute legal advice to any person on a specific case or matter. You are strongly advised to obtain specific, personal advice from a lawyer about your case or matter.