Legal advice: The future of flexible working

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During the pandemic, flexible working hours and patterns enabled those with caregiving responsibilities greater freedom and a healthier work-life balance. Therefore, a move away from this style of working should be given proper consideration before the positive message
is lost.

CIPD research found that last year 6% of employees left their jobs due to a lack of flexibility, and 23% of those employees were either disabled or suffered from a long-term health condition.

There is a risk that any change from flexible working may force some employees to leave jobs, particularly in the context of rising childcare costs which will no doubt compound the difficulties many working families are facing during the current cost of living crisis.

What can employees do?

If your employer has indicated that they want to change your working pattern and this will have a negative impact on you e.g., your ability to make childcare arrangements, you should raise any concerns you may have informally with your line manager in the first instance.

If this does not resolve the matter, you may need to raise this more formally via your employer’s grievance procedure. You should act quickly and not delay as your failure to object to any changes may be deemed as acceptance, particularly if you continue working.

What employers should do?

Employers need to strike the right balance between ensuring the business needs are met and enabling flexibility and choice.

The ability for employees to work remotely or on a hybrid basis can improve employee retention and employee wellbeing. Employers should ensure that they have clear and consistent policies on flexible working requests from day one (in preparation for the changes to the law next year).

It is also important to have a written policy which managers have received training on and understand. You should have an open dialogue with employees and consult with them about changes being considered rather than simply imposing new working practices which could lead to workplace issues.

For employers who already have flexible working practices in place and who do not propose to make any changes, it is important to ensure that there are clear guidelines covering expected standards and working hours and that remote workers do not become isolated.

Inclusion and collaboration with office-based colleagues should be encouraged and supported. It is also important to ensure that remote workers have all the right equipment (including anti-virus software and any cyber security measures to protect your business), to perform their role and that employees are appropriately trained.

Further advice

If you are an employer thinking about asking your staff to return to the office; or if you are an employee who has been advised that your working pattern has or will change and want some advice on your rights and/or obligations.

Contact our friendly, specialist Employment Team today, we’re here to help.

by Michelle Bruce
paid partnership with Woodfines Solicitors