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Flexible and hybrid working

Overview
An employee's statutory right to request flexible working was dramatically widened in June 2014. Before this date, employees needed to meet prescriptive eligibility requirements, such as having caring responsibilities for either a child or an adult in need of care. Now, all an employee needs to be eligible to request flexible working is 26 weeks' continuous service and not to have made a previous request within the last year. The statutory procedure for dealing with flexible working requests was also repealed.
 
That said, even eligible employees do not have the right to work flexibly, but rather a right to submit a request to their employer for flexible working. On receipt of the request, following the law change, the employer is under a duty to consider the request in a reasonable manner, but does not have to follow a statutory procedure.
 
Due to the increased interest in hybrid working, it has been included in this topic area. As a form of flexible working, it can be accessed through the formal procedure. However many organisations are considering moving to a hybrid model on an organisation wide level, rather than via individual requests. As such, information on implementing and managing hybrid working specifically has been added to the in-depth section. 

Key points

  • The right to request flexible working is available to employees with a minimum of 26 weeks' continuous service with the employer.
  • No qualifying period of employment is required for claiming unfair dismissal where an employee has been dismissed for making a request for flexible working.
  • The right to request flexible working applies to both full-time and part-time employees.
  • If a request for flexible working is refused, the employee must make any claims to an employment tribunal within three months of the 'relevant date'.
  • Hybrid working is a particular kind of flexible working that combines the benefit of being both in the workplace, and at home. 
  • Organisations that are a 'good fit' for hybrid working can see benefits in the wellbeing, engagement, and motivation of their employees, as well as in productivity. 
  • Guidance from Acas and the CIPD on hybrid working helps employers to transition into this way of working, and highlights the important considerations to make.

See our 'Hybrid working toolkit' for information and tools from around the site. 

Recent developments 

Govt plans to extend scope of legal right

The Government response to consultation on extending the scope of flexible working legislation is expected, now that consultation on the subject was closed on 1 December 2021.

The consultation, "Making Flexible Working The Default", considered amongst other things, removing the current 26 week service eligibility criterion, meaning that employees will be able to request flexible working from day one of employment.

Read more on this in the In Depth section. 

Renewed interest in hybrid working

Hybrid working has becoming an increasing part of everyday life post-covid, as employers look to use the lessons learned from the pandemic and how they might make organising work better. Hybrid working is simply an alternative way of working, combining multiple locations (often, home and the office). 

Requests for hybrid working should be dealt with in the same way as requests for any other kind of alternative working pattern, such as part time working, and the flexible working process should be utilised. 

We have brought together our relevant resources on hybrid working in our 'Hybrid working toolkit'. 

Four day working week trial begins

A pilot scheme of a four day working week, involving over 60 UK companies, began at the start of June 2022, and is expected to continue to December 2022. 

Employers participating in this trial will continue to pay their staff in full, despite more than 3,000 workers (across the companies participating) only working 80% of their usual hours. The catch is: they must maintain 100% productivity. 

This pilot is running alongside similar trials in Ireland, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Israel, all coordinated by 4 Day Week Global, in partnership with researchers at Cambridge University, Oxford University and Boston College.