New employment law offers more flexibility for home working

The new employment relationship (Flexible Working Act 2023), which will come into force in 2024, will offer employees more flexibility in their working arrangements, with employers expected to provide a response to their requests within two months instead of the previous three. Consult them for this.

Workers will be able to demand flexibility about how, where and when they work and will be allowed to make two requests a year – an increase from the current single annual request. It was suggested that this right would be available from the first day of employment, however it currently remains that the request can only be made after 26 weeks of employment.

In addition, employees will no longer be required to explain in their application how their request will impact their employer’s business or how it might be dealt with.

Kerry Hudson, solicitor, personal injury and employment at Coventry and Warwickshire solicitors Brindley, Twist, Taft & James, said the changes affect the right to request flexible working, and will require a consultation, with the employer considering this. It must be kept in mind that no physical change has occurred. A company may still deny an employee’s request for flexible arrangements, especially if it is not viable, or even detrimental to a business.

But with British business and industry facing ongoing problems retaining staff, Carey said most businesses today are willing to accept such requests in order to retain valued employees and avoid the expense of finding replacements. .

A report from global HR and payroll company Remote earlier this year showed that employee turnover in the UK and US has increased by nine per cent since 2019 – the last full year before the pandemic. In Britain it is now 35.6 percent.

Hybrid and remote workers in the UK were the least likely to be looking for new roles at 38 percent, compared to office workers (43.7 percent).

The report said it takes an average of 40 days to recruit a new employee while the cost to a business is an average of 34.5 percent of the new employee’s salary.

Kerry said that although businesses are not legally required to agree to an employee’s request for flexible working, they do need to be mindful of other parts of the law such as the Equality Act 2010. For example, if an employee suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome is requested to work at home for some/all of their working week and does not agree to this, if the condition amounts to a disability, what The fact that a flexible working request is being refused may be grounds for a failure to make reasonable adjustments and a discrimination claim.

Similarly, if a mother’s request for reduced hours is denied upon returning from maternity leave, could this be considered discrimination?

A genuine effort must be made to consider the request as well as considering any possible compromises, and the employer must be prepared to provide evidence of this. A reasonable reason needs to be given as to why the request must be agreed to if it cannot be agreed to.

Kerry advised that any new agreement should be formalized in writing, in many cases a new contract of employment outlining the different terms should be drawn up and signed by both parties.

Kerry said: “Retaining staff is extremely difficult at the moment so many employers are trying to accommodate their staff and offer flexible working.

“Where there has been a variation in terms, we would always recommend formalizing it. For example, there may be a case where an employee is asked to return to the office full time, and even though it is not in their contract, they argue that it is an implied term that they will work from home on Fridays. Do it because they did it last year and no one said anything. It’s always much easier if the terms of the contract are set out in writing.”

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