Hybrid working

Ian Cass

 I recently attended an HR event and have followed up on their comments on “Hybrid working”. It seems to be something that many of our members are claiming to do, now that people are coming back to work.

The issue with Hybrid working is that it doesn’t really have a legal definition and if employers don’t get it right, it could lead to problems going forward.

Employees can formally apply for flexible working if they have worked for you for 26 weeks and you have 3 months to deal with any requests.

There are options:

  1. Homeworking – the employee works 100% of their hours from home
  2. Agile working where the employee decides where they work and when
  3. Another option, the employer and employee agree on a more flexible working pattern, but this needs to be written down so that both sides know what this new, “Hybrid working” pattern is.

You need to look at and take into account:-

  • Contractual provisions and policy
  • Where do they work and when
  • Hours of work
  • Targets, if any
  • Confidentiality and data protection
  • Health and safety
  • Equipment
  • Insurance

Employers can refuse flexible work requests for 8 statutory reasons.

  1. The burden of additional costs

You can refuse a flexible working request if it will be a financial burden on your business. For example, if accepting a flexible working request meant that your business had to absorb additional costs of engaging with a recruitment agency or paying other employees to work overtime at a premium rate, you’re permitted to refuse the request.

  1. An inability to reorganise work amongst existing staff

Do you employ staff with very specific skills? If one of these employees wanted to work flexibly how easy would it be for you to rearrange their work amongst existing staff? If the answer is “it isn’t” or “we tried and failed” then this is another legitimate reason for refusing a flexible working request.

  1. An inability to recruit additional staff

Take the following scenario. An employee submits a flexible working request to leave an hour early every day. How would you go about recruiting someone to work just one hour per day? It would, of course, be impractical and consequently, this is a justified reason to refuse a flexible working request.

  1. A detrimental impact on quality

A head of department or a customer-facing manager wishes to work two days per week. Will customers suffer because that employee is absent for three days of the working week? If you fail to recruit for the remaining three days and the reduced working hours would have a detrimental impact on your customers, you can refuse the request. This is a reason for refusal that we see quite often when customers call into our Advice Line.

  1. A detrimental impact on performance

This one is straightforward. If it’s going to have a significant impact on an employee’s ability to carry out their role, the request should be rejected.

  1. Detrimental effect on the ability to meet customer demand

To explain this, I’ll use an example I’ve recently seen in the hospitality sector. Most restaurants are busiest on Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings. If an employee submits a request to work on Mondays and Tuesdays only, this would prevent the business from meeting their customer demand during their busiest periods and a request can be refused on these grounds.

  1. Insufficient work for the periods the employee proposes to work

I’ll use the same example of an employee at a restaurant requesting to work on a Monday and Tuesday only. If there isn’t sufficient work to be carried out during the periods an employee is requesting to work, you can refuse the request.

  1. Planned structural changes to the business

If you’re going through a restructure or a redundancy, these are legitimate reasons to refuse a flexible working request.

If Hybrid/Flexible working is something you are considering in your business and you need additional support please call our helpdesk team on 01565 626001 or email info@fpb.org

Our legal partner rradar has also written a blog on Flexible working requests, take a read here.