In today’s world, flexible working is in high demand, with ‘hybrid working’ being the preferred approach for many organisations right now.
Often cited as the most-desired employee benefit, businesses are increasingly embracing working models that place less emphasis on where and when employees work and focus more on productivity, engagement and output.
However, for many organisations, flexible working is largely unexplored territory. With various employment law, HR and health and safety implications to consider, expert support from WorkNest will enable you to execute your plans confidently and compliantly.
Get your FREE consultation
Submit your details and one of our team will be in touch.
COVID-19 | FREE expert guidance for employers, including sample policies, template risk assessments and more
How we help
Navigate flexible working with our fixed-fee support
Flexible working can take many different forms: part-time working, term-time working, job sharing, compressed hours, annualised hours, flexitime and – most relevant right now – remote working or a ‘hybrid’ approach. Any working arrangement which gives employees a degree of flexibility over where, when and for how long they work will fall under this general umbrella.
Whatever your situation, and whatever type of flexible working you are exploring, our Employment Law, HR and Health & Safety specialists can advise you on the legalities, help you to preserve productivity and engagement, and ensure you’re meeting your risk management responsibilities.
- Set out your arrangements and expectations, and avoid issues later down the line, with a flexible/hybrid working policy and procedure tailored to your business
- Ensure your contracts align with your flexible working arrangements, and insert new clauses if necessary, by having them reviewed and updated by qualified legal experts
- Manage flexible working requests compliantly, and avoid potential discrimination issues when rejecting requests, with unlimited advice from your own small team of dedicated Employment Law specialists
- Save time and navigate the process efficiently and compliantly with documents drafted on your behalf, including hearing invites and acceptance, rejection and contract variation letters
- Ensure staff can work safely from anywhere with a dedicated health and safety policy, specific advice on appropriate control measures, and guidance on conducting homeworker risk assessments with templates provided
Harnessing a Hybrid Working Model
The Legalities of Hybrid Working
Free training video
Flexible Working Beyond the Pandemic
Preserve productivity while preventing legal missteps
Any employee with over 26 weeks’ service has the statutory right to request flexible working. However, this doesn’t mean they have a right to be granted flexible working.
The law is very specific about how employers must deal with statutory requests. For example, you must:
- Deal with applications in a reasonable manner
- Have a valid business reason for rejecting an employee’s request
- Notify the employee of your decision within three months
What if an employee wants to remain working from home after lockdown?
If an employee asks for this, it will probably amount to a flexible working request (subject to qualifying criteria). Therefore, any such request must be dealt with in a reasonable manner, within three months of the request being made, and can be only be rejected on certain business grounds. We have produced a template Homeworking Policy, which can be download from our Coronavirus Advice Hub, in order to assist with this process.
What are the potential problems of rejecting a flexible working request?
There are three main risks.
First, if there has been a breach of the flexible working provisions of the Employment Rights Act 1996, a Tribunal could order that the employer reconsiders the request and/or award compensation of up to eight weeks’ pay.
Second, if the employee has two or more years’ continuous service, they may be able to resign and claim that they have been constructively dismissed if there has been a fundamental breach of their contract. This will be difficult for the employee to prove unless they can demonstrate that rejecting the request destroyed the relationship of trust and confidence between the parties.
Finally, discrimination. If a request has been rejected because of a protected characteristic, for example sex or disability, this will amount to direct discrimination. Also, if the reason(s) for rejecting a request leads to more of a disadvantage to one protected group when compared to other groups, this may amount to indirect discrimination unless it can be objectively justified. This can be particularly common if the request is from a female employee and relates to childcare arrangements.
Without writing it into contracts, what would be the most effective way to unofficially have a ‘two day in the office, three from home’ model?
If you don’t want to have a formal contractual change, then just agree the arrangements with the employee, ideally by letter, but on a temporary basis. Remember though that a variation by letter is normally a variation of contract and even an unofficial or informal change may well be seen as a contractual variation, by implication or custom and practice.
How can we balance different business needs at each site while still remaining ‘fair’ in the eyes of employees?
Just as different organisations will have different needs, one employer may have different needs within a workforce or across multiple entities/work locations. The CIPD 7 strategies to make hybrid working successful in an organisation may be helpful. Assessing the individual needs of each location/ role and ensuring managers are clear in their messaging about the rationale behind the arrangement at each location will be critical.
If a pattern of flexible working is agreed, e.g. WFH Friday, can we ask the employee to come in for a meeting on Friday?
When agreeing a flexible working pattern, it is important to make it clear that you reserve the right for the employee to attend work for meetings on days when they normally work from home, if required. This should be exercised on a reasonable basis, e.g. not expecting them in every Friday otherwise the agreement becomes meaningless.
Are employees who work from home considered to be lone workers?
If a person is working at home, then they are considered to be remote working (i.e. they do not have direct supervision from their employers but have means of communication). If there is another person in their home while they are working, then they are not considered to be a lone worker (i.e. as there is somebody else in the home that can assist in a case of an emergency).
We have decided to implement a hybrid working pattern. What are our obligations on health and safety and do we have an obligation to attend staff members’ addresses to ensure that they are meeting health and safety standards?
Employers have the same health and safety responsibilities for remote workers as for any other employee. You do not have an obligation to attend the employee’s address but rather an employer should consider how they would keep in regular contact with the employee, e.g. regular online meetings or phone calls. An employer would also consider what type of work is undertaken, if this can be done safely, and what control measures are needed if required.
How can we determine that somebody has the right set-up at home and can work effectively?
An employer would provide a working at home form / DSE form for the employee to complete; this would identify whether an employee has suitable working conditions at home. The form would also highlight key areas that an employer can assist, such as providing a foot rest, lumbar support and/or hand and wrist support pads, etc.
Could we run hybrid working via a Flexible Working Policy rather than changing terms and conditions of employment?
Yes, you can use your existing Flexible Working Policy for requests if you don’t want a separate Hybrid Working Policy. However, a Hybrid Working Policy is probably beneficial as it will be able to specifically cover the issues involved when an employee works both in the office and at home.
Can we insist on certain members of staff going to the office each day whilst others are offered homeworking or hybrid working?
Yes, potentially you can, provided the reason for it is not arbitrary or capricious and there is no discriminatory element. For example, for more junior colleagues who may need a greater degree of supervision, you could justifiably require them to attend work. Obviously, you would then need to ensure that they did in fact get the required support in the office.
Explore our fixed-fee Employment Law support
Explore our fixed-fee Employment Law support
Advice LineFast, pragmatic, commercial. Our Employment Law & HR advice line gives you and your managers access to truly unlimited advice on all of your people-related challenges, from the seemingly straightforward to the most complex.
What sorts of things can you advise on?
HR matters come with the territory when you run a business or manage an organisation and we’re here to help you through it all. Whether you’re battling absenteeism, struggling to manage an underperforming employee or need help navigating a complicated exercise like redundancy, we can walk you through the steps required to handle the situation appropriately.
Is everything dealt with through one team?
Yes. All of our advisers are qualified legal professionals or on the road to formal qualification, which means a full range of employee issues can be dealt with within your dedicated three-person team. In the event that you’re presented with an Employment Tribunal claim, we will conduct a full handover to our Litigation Team so that they are well equipped to defend you.
99.2% Client happiness rating
97% Client retention rating
Why choose us?
Experts in Employment Law & HR
At WorkNest, we’re known for our bespoke service and the quality of our support. Not only is our expertise unmatched, but we take the time to know you so that we can function as a true extension of your team.
- Your own small team of dedicated experts
- Commercial, pragmatic advice tailored to you
- Bespoke contracts, policies and handbooks
- Trusted by over 35,000 organisations
- Recognised as a leading firm by the Legal 500
Who you’ll be working with
Executive Director, Privacy International
WorkNest supports our 280 staff members with Employment Law and Health & Safety and has provided quality management training too.”
Head of Service Delivery, Catalyst Choice
We get a great deal of comfort and satisfaction knowing that we have support as and when we need it, in a decisive and responsive way.”
Group HR Director, Culina Group
We moved our legal support to WorkNest (formerly Law at Work) having previously used a time and line law firm. It was important, though, that an all-inclusive fee structure did not come at the expense of quality. Thankfully we’ve been delighted with the service we’ve received from WorkNest.”
What we recognised in WorkNest is the background that they have. They are able to supply knowledge and experience in a number of disciplines, which enables us to develop our business in a way that’s safe, to do it on time and with a quality to it.”
Director of Human Resources and Health & Safety,
Bluestone National Park Resort
Chief Executive, The Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust (JRCT)
As the company started to get larger, we knew we had to protect our employees and our contractors both onsite and in the offices. WorkNest is exactly what we needed to move the company forward.”
Operations Director, Beaverfit
Pineapple have worked with the team at WorkNest (formerly Law at Work) since 2003, and we have built a trusted partnership together. We particularly like WorkNest’s concise and practical advice concerning employment law/HR issues and also appreciate their totally supportive approach in all areas of health and safety.”
Pineapple Dance Studios
I’ve taken WorkNest into every organisation that I’ve worked with. I’ve introduced them to many teams and many colleagues and referred them with absolute pleasure because I genuinely trust in the service that we get.”
People Director, The Works
Latest news and insights
BLOG Written by Charles Spencer on 7 June 2021 Hybrid working seems to be emerging as the favoured post-pandemic approach. However, as well as being a significant business decision from a people, culture and employment law perspective, moving to a mixture of home and office working will have health and safety implications. You may have trialled remote working over the last 15 months and, if so, you will hopefully have already taken measures to ensure staff can work comfortably and
BLOG When it comes to the world of work, one key theme has stood out in the COVID-19 narrative: an acceleration of already emerging trends. The same no doubt applies to the workplace of the future. Whilst being office-based was certainly the predominant way of working pre-pandemic, some were already recognising the benefits of co-located working long before coronavirus forced businesses to do things differently, and questioning whether this was the way forward for the sake of productivity, retention and
BLOG Written by Jane Hallas on 27 May 2021 Each week, more businesses are abandoning their usual ways of working and embracing a more flexible approach. In fact, according to a BBC poll of Britain’s 50 biggest firms, 43 are planning a mix of home and office working post-lockdown, while four said they were keeping the idea of hybrid working under review. But before diving into hybrid working head first, there are numerous legalities to consider. As well as weighing