As a result of the COVID-19 Pandemic, hybrid working has become increasingly common across many sectors in the UK.
Often referred to as ‘hybrid’, ‘agile’ or ‘blended’ working, this style of flexible working sees an employee works from more than one location. There is no fixed or legal definition of these terms, the specific arrangements will depend on the agreements between organisations and staff.
Hybrid working can help to improve a person’s work/life balance and it can lead to an increase of savings on office space and a reduction in commuting costs. It also allows an employer to choose from a wider talent pool. It can also lead to an increase of trust between employee and employer.
Health and Safety
Employers should take note that they remain responsible for the Health and Safety of their employees wherever they work. Employers should encourage breaks, regular catch-up meetings and connectivity to make sure those working from home are included in all work related discussions.
An employees’ requestUnder the Flexible Working Regulations, an employee with at least 26 weeks’ continuous employment can make a request for flexible working. Some employers will allow an employee to make a request, even if they do not have the legal right. Only one request can be made in any 12-month period.
An employer can only refuse a request on one or more of the following grounds:
An employer must look at an employee request fairly and make a decision within a maximum of three months.Employers should be aware that an Employment Tribunal will also consider if the employer has followed the ACAS Code of Practice on Flexible Working Requests. Employers should familiarise themselves with the Code of Practice and make sure that any Flexible Working Policy is consistent with the Code.
To ensure consistency, and to enable managers to deal with flexible working requests efficiently, an employer should make sure that its company policies properly and accurately reflect what is happening in practice.Any policy as a matter of good practice, also lets the employee know what is expected of them.
Things to consider
Consideration should also be given to the roles that are suitable for home working, how requests will be dealt with, when will the employee come to the workplace and how the workplace will be used.
Other consideration includes, Health and Safety, how will the Employer undertake Risk Assessments, the protection of data, given the cyber security risks, and how will the employee manage performance?
There does however need to be an element of trust. Employees can be as or more productive working from home. If an employer has cause for concern, they should investigate the matter as they would with an employee in the office.
Training and development of staff is also important. Training specifically for hybrid working could be considered.
What does the future hold?
The Government has proposed to give all employees the right to request flexible working when they start new jobs rather than the current 26 weeks. A consultation has been launched by the Department for Business on the proposals. The outcome of the consultation will be published in due course.
Many employers are already updating their flexible working policy following the COVID-19 pandemic and the working landscape looks set to continue to change as employers and employees adapt.
How can we help?
If you do find yourself defending an employment tribunal claim, we can offer you advice and representation. We can also offer advice at the outset and / or during a redundancy process in order to minimise the risk of a claim being issued.
If an employee thinks that they were selected for a discriminatory reason – for example, on the grounds of sex, age, or disability – they will be able to bring a discrimination claim.
An employee will also have a claim if you fail to pay the correct amount of statutory redundancy pay, notice pay or holiday pay.
For more information please contact our employment team here.
This article was written by Alex Pearce, Senior Associate in the Employment Law Team at Pinney Talfourd LLP Solicitors. The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. Specific legal advice should be taken on each individual matter. This article is based on the law as of November 2021.