When Flexibility is not Working
The pandemic forced many organisations to work in different ways. Some had to largely reinvent their product and service range whilst others dropped into entirely remote working. Fortunately, we seem to have emerged from the worst of the pandemic, but some employers are reporting that there are challenges in finding optimum ways of working.
The Harvard Business Review recently reported:
“There’s absolutely a strong desire among business decision makers (BDMs) to get people back into the office. Data from our latest Microsoft Work Trend Index research shows that 82% of BDMs say getting back to the office in person is a concern.”
Having established home working in principle, what can employers do if team members decide they do not want to return to the workplace, perhaps preferring a blended approach between office working and home working?
Making a return to work enjoyable is of course helpful but ultimately employers need to be clear about operational requirements or indeed if the collective culture of the organisation is at risk this needs to be communicated.
Employers need to be clear in terms of what is needed by the organisation, and if required, can make reference to the contract of employment. Employees can submit a ‘flexible work request’ which is known as a ‘statutory application’. Employers then need to deal with this request in a ‘reasonable manner’, assessing the advantages and disadvantages of the application. They will also need to hold a meeting to discuss the request with the employee. If the request is not handled in a reasonable manner, it could end up at an employment tribunal.
Employers can reject such requests for valid business reasons. Inevitably, this can vary organisation to organisation, but can include factors such as cost, or a negative effect on the organisations ability to meet customer needs.
Organisations may need a wider review of the way in which they work and if this is the case, taking a good look at existing and new contracts of employment will be necessary to ensure they meet the needs of the organisation going forward.
Employers in need of guidance in this area should contact Pictons on: