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Flexible working requests and the law

As the UK starts to open up even more and people go back into the office, there are a couple of stories that have recently made headline news that shows how employers need to think carefully around legal requirements to consider flexible working and how public attitudes have shifted again over the past 18months.

These applications need to be given serious consideration as, if they aren’t, it could be a costly mistake. COVID-19 has changed the way that a lot of people look at their working lives and high on the agenda for many is flexibility and the ability to combine their working and home lives in a different way.

Flexible Working Regulations were updated in 2014 so that any employee with a minimum of 26 weeks service can request flexible working arrangements. The main point here is that these requests are required to be taken seriously in line with the legal framework as well as the needs of each individual business.

One firm that didn’t take this into careful consideration has recently been in the news on the receiving end of a very expensive court case. Their employee, Alice Thompson, a new mum returning to work after maternity leave, requested a different working pattern to enable her to pick her daughter up from nursery.

Alice had her request refused. She believed that the firm hadn’t taken her request into serious consideration or been willing to negotiate and she started legal proceedings. The tribunal ruling over the case found that the firm’s failure to consider more flexible working put Ms Thompson at a disadvantage and upheld her claim.

The judge awarded her almost £185,000 for loss of earnings, loss of pension contributions, injury to feelings and interest.

Another case that’s recently been in the news and demonstrates the strength of public feeling in support of flexible working is the job advertisement for general manager at AFC Fylde. The now deleted ad stated that applicants should “We work hard at Fylde so again, don’t apply if you are looking for a work-life balance or have to pick up the kids from school twice a week at 3.30.”

This caused a huge amount of outrage on social media and at best demonstrates an outdated view surrounding work/life balance and flexible working. Many commentators were disgusted that the ad implied those who are looking for work/life balance don’t work hard.

What both of these news pieces demonstrate is that as an employer flexible working should be considered seriously as it may be high on the agenda for your employees. If you don’t, it could be costly for the company both in terms of reputation and financially.

At Pilgrim Hope, we support both employers and employees and would always advise that anyone who considers they may have an issue at work to seek advice before acting.

If you believe that you need advice regarding an employment or HR legal issue contact our employment law expert.

Call 01257 42250 today to book an appointment.

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