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Hybrid working is not an automatic right for an employee

Introduction

The pandemic has given many employees the opportunity to consider the way they work long term, the desire to combine remote and office work and to have greater freedom and autonomy over their working hours.

Whilst there are issues to consider from the employee perspective, not least whether a change to hybrid working may lead to an increased sense of isolation, ultimately negatively impacting upon performance, this note looks at the issue from an employer’s perspective.

Hybrid working will not be appropriate for all businesses: whilst in principle relatively straightforward for a wholly office-based environment, the approach that a manufacturer (with both operational and office staff to consider) takes will be more challenging.

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Is it an automatic right?

Hybrid working is not an automatic right for an employee: it is a form of flexible working which an employer is legally obliged to consider, but may reject if there are valid grounds for doing so.

Employers may have legitimate concerns. These will vary from business to business, but could include concerns about maintaining cultural cohesion, a reduction in oversight and support for staff, greater difficulties in integrating and supporting new starters or more junior staff and potential IT security or data protection risks and associated technical costs.

Can I reject a request?

Hybrid working is a form of flexible working and proper consideration must be given to any request for flexible working. The right to make a formal request for flexible working is formalised in the Employment Rights Act 1996. Every request must be considered on its individual merits and evidence will be needed to support a refusal by an employer.

The more obvious reasons for rejecting a request include that it would result in:

  • a detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand
  • the business being unable to re-organise work among existing staff
  • a detrimental impact on quality
  • a detrimental impact on performance
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Developing a Hybrid Working Policy might be useful

Next steps

By its very nature, this note can only scratch the surface of this topic: a next first step for an employer considering the issues around hybrid working would be to develop a strategy for the business. A good place to start might be to develop a policy based upon what you consider the workplace to be for.

Topics to consider include:

  • which roles or departments might be suitable for hybrid working
  • dealing with the potential for a two-tier system (operational site-based vs home based)
  • workspace requirements
  • health and safety
  • the blurring of lines between work and home life potentially leading to stress and burn out
  • your expectations for client meetings
  • maintaining team cohesion and work social events

We’ve been helping our clients address questions around hybrid working including creating hybrid working policies. Please give us a call if you’d like some help.

Robin Hassan Principal at My Inhouse Lawyer

Written by Robin Hassan
Principal at My Inhouse Lawyer

One of our values (Growth) is, in many ways, all about cultivating a growth mindset. We are passionate about learning, improving and evolving. We learn from each other, use the best know-how tools in the market and constantly look for ways to simplify. Lawskool is our way of sharing with you. It isn’t intended to be legal advice, rather to enlighten you to make smart business decisions day to day with the benefit of some of our insight. We hope you enjoy the experience. There are some really good ideas and tips coming from some of the best inhouse lawyers. Easy to read and practical. If there’s something you’d like us to write about or some feedback you wish to share, feel free to drop us a note. Equally, if it’s legal advice you’re after, then just give us a call on 0207 939 3959.

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