Flexible working requests – key things you should know as an employer

Woman on laptop with dog next to her, both on the sofa

Many employers are anticipating an increase in working from home requests as discussions begin about returning to the workplace. For many employees, getting back into the social setting of work will be a welcome relief, but others have seen benefits to working from home, especially those with time consuming commutes. These individuals may be contemplating how best to discuss with their employer the opportunity to make home their permanent place of work.

Employees already have a statutory right to request flexible working (which includes home working), which employers have a legal obligation to consider. In this article we explore the common questions asked by employers about flexible working requests.

What are the eligibility criteria to request working from home?

Employees with at least 26 weeks continuous service have a statutory right to request ‘flexible working,’ which includes homeworking. Originally, the legislation was aimed at parents and carers of dependants but was then extended to all qualifying employees, regardless of why they wished to work flexibly.

Only one formal request can be made by an employee in any 12-month period by an employee. It’s important to keep in mind it is a right to ‘request’, not ‘demand’.

Can I reject a request to work from home?

Yes. Employers can reject a request, but it must be linked to one or more of eight statutory reasons and the detailed reason(s) should be provided to the employee in writing.

Do I need to follow a fair procedure?

Yes. We would strongly advise you have a procedure in place that also allows for the right of appeal and for any appeal to be considered by a different (more senior) manager.

Can my employee bring a claim if their request to work from home is rejected?

Potentially, yes. An employee can bring claims for failing to follow a fair procedure. There is also a risk employers may receive discrimination claims if the reason for declining a request is both unjustifiable and linked to one of the protected characteristics.

Can I insist on a trial period?

Providing you and your employee agree, a trial period (which can be beneficial to both parties) can be a sensible way forward, especially where there is uncertainty over whether the arrangement will work.

Am I required to reimburse the employee for additional costs incurred through home working?

Where the employee request to work from home, the employer is under no obligation to reimburse additional costs such as heat, light and power.

Interested in finding out more? Take a look at Vero Insights articles “Homeworking – Determining your strategic stance” and “Managing a remote home – based workforce”.

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