Flexible Working Part 2

26 June 2020

Flexible Working
(Part 2)

Last week we discussed how best to keep sane and healthy whilst working at home – whether the experience is new to you or not.

Employees have had the right to request flexible working – including working from home – for some time now. Remote working during the Covid 19 lockdown has asked many to consider whether they would like to continue doing so in future. 

Some interesting statistics

According to Personnel Today almost half of workers expect a return to limited flexible working policies once the social distancing ends, and that 77% feel employers have done a good job handling the remote work transition.

Three quarters said they believe their employer trusted them to be productive from home, although 31% revealed that their employer had enforced new processes to check on people’s work output.

Only 9% said their employer has handled rolling out remote working poorly. This is surprising given that employees’ requests for flexible working were typically resisted prior to lockdown. 

I am not surprised that 68% feel they are either more productive or equally productive from home. As I suggested in last week’s blog, productivity can easily be improved whilst working at home notwithstanding ‘distractions’ such as childcare, home-schooling, and of course, sport on TV!

However, while 31% said their work-life balance had become more manageable since the lockdown  began, individuals did not necessarily believe that all this would result in their employer changing their flexible work policies in the longer term. Nearly half (47%) believe that their employer will abandon widespread remote working once the Covid 19 pandemic is over.

Going forward

Overall, employees are getting used to working from home and many are noticing benefits including avoiding stressful, time-consuming commutes; saving money on travel and food; managing work more efficiently; fewer interruptions; and seeing their children more often.
After the pandemic eases, will there be a cultural shift towards working from home as a normal thing to do?  Many employees will want to do this (at least one or two days each week). But where do they stand legally? 

Right to Request Flexible Working

Any employee (other than an employee shareholder) with at least 26 weeks continuous service with the same employer can request flexible working. Flexible working includes changing your hours, either compressing them or changing to part-time or term-time only or working wholly or partly from home. See our Flexible Working Request template and Flexible Working Policy template.

The Request must be in writing and dated, and include the change the employee would like to his or her working pattern, advising when the change would come into force, what effect the change would have on the business, and how such effects might be dealt with.
The employer must respond within 3 months and reasonably consider any request but can reject it quoting ‘prescribed’ business reasons.

HR response

Although employees in the UK have a statutory right to request flexible working, prior to Covid-19 only around 5% of its 33 million workers mainly worked from home. It is relatively easy for employers to justify a refusal to such a request based on one of the 'prescribed' grounds and there is no recourse for employees other than for those with relevant protected characteristics.

If the request is approved, HR should vary the terms of the employee’s contract of employment either with a change to employment terms letter, or a contract variation. Make sure that you have a suitable Flexible Working Policy.

Using your home workspace

Have you considered renting out your home workspace to either your employer or to your own business if you are self-employed?

We stress that we are not accountants and nothing we write here is to be construed as financial or other advice. 

We have a choice of templates that may assist with maximising the efficiency of your home space. These range from home office rental, office sharing templates to car-parking permits

The future of work from home

Many predict however, that after the current crisis, flexible working will become part of the "new normal" and we will see a shift in the working culture. More employees are likely to ask for flexibility to work from home, including at the recruitment stage, thus potentially forcing employers to being open to the idea and consider such requests more favourably than before.

Companies are certainly catching onto the trend, and most have the flexibility to work from home, if not at all the time, at least when needed. It is without doubt changing the way we work. While it may not be for everybody, employers may find they can save money and increase productivity for some workers. For some employees, work-from-home benefits may be the difference between an enjoyable and stressful work life.

Let's see what happens!

John Davies
23rd June 2020

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