Flexible working is the future of the workplace.
Although flexible and agile working have been buzzwords in employment law for a few years now, the pandemic has forced it onto the agenda of all organisations, whatever their size, structure, sector or location.
Despite the lockdowns and restrictions placing unprecedented demands on both employers and employees, many have adapted very well and are now looking to continue with a more hybrid working model despite the government’s announcement that people will no longer be advised to work from home and can return to the workplace.
As well as the obvious benefits to both employers and employees of continuing to combine working from home with going into the office and more flexible hours, there are employment law and other legal implications that employers will need to consider.
Each organisation’s requirements will be slightly different and Collyer Bristow’s employment team can work with you to ensure that you have the relevant policies and procedures in place to avoid any pitfalls. Unlike other law firms we do not offer a ‘one-size-fits-all’ Hybrid working package but can provide you with bespoke guidance that suits your specific needs, including:
- Managing requests for flexible working and managing a remote workforce.
- Guidance on how to implement changes to employment contracts in ways that minimise litigation risk.
- How to avoid redundancies and practical methods to reduce expenditure, and how to manage redundancies and restructures which are unavoidable.
- Handling sickness and unauthorised absences, and the effects of ‘long Covid’ on your workforce.
- Health and safety and government guidance on maintaining Covid secure workspaces.
- Data protection issues, particularly around monitoring and recording vaccination status, testing results and sickness.
- Key managerial training including managing internal procedures whilst still working remotely, and dealing with inter-staff conflicts.
A reform of flexible working regulations
On 23 September the government opened a consultation to take views from individuals and businesses on its proposals to reform flexible working regulations. The government is consulting on five proposals which generally are designed to make flexible working the default for most. The consultation closes on 01 December 2021, and we anticipate the government’s response sometime in early 2022. It’s therefore not likely that any changes will be introduced until the summer of 2022 at the earliest.
Meanwhile, the existing flexible working regulations remain in force, and businesses are being encouraged by the government to accept flexible working.
Employee expectations to work flexible and agilely have exploded and nearly half of all employers are reported to offer flexible working in 2021.
Support for employees
We advise employees on how to make statutory requests for flexible working and what your rights are if your employer unreasonably refuses a request or doesn’t respond within the decision period.
We can assist with preparing a formal request; guide you through the process; and where requests are not accepted by employers, assist you with submitting an appeal, grievance or Employment Tribunal claim if necessary.
We can also advise your flexible working rights as a parent or if you require reasonable adjustments.
Issues for employers in 2022 and beyond
COVID-19 has caused the greatest shift in UK employment law for a decade. The government launched the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) which introduced the concept of furlough to UK for the first time. Many businesses had to, almost overnight, set staff up to work from home and figure out new policies and procedures to ensure proper and adequate (and sometimes legally required) monitoring and supervision were in place. Whatever the challenge during the pandemic, most employers have met it head-on and managed spectacularly.
However now, with most restrictions lifted and the requirement to work from home removed the nation is learning to live and work alongside COVID-19, which has brought its own set of challenges. For example, dealing with staff shortages and recruitment during the ‘pingdemic’; managing large amounts of accrued and rolled-forward annual leave and flexible working requests; effective monitoring supervision of staff performance and conduct whilst working remotely, and ensuring sufficient transparency, communication and continuity to keep up staff morale; dealing with a return to the workplace and the need to alter contracts of employment, and managing staff resistance to both; dealing with employees who moved out of the area, city or country during lockdown; contingency planning for the upcoming winter months.
One particularly difficult area is managing inter-staff relationships and conflicts, particularly around sensitive or controversial subjects such as vaccination.
We have developed detailed training that deals with all these practical issues and more, with a selection listed below. We are able to provide simple guides for dealing with thorny issues and long-term challenges. We are happy to tailor our training to suit your particular needs, especially if you’re facing a particular workplace issue that we can help with.
Training workshops and seminars:
A tool for employers
A tool for employers
Helping employers manage statutory flexible working requests
The disruption to business operations caused by the pandemic has meant many employers are receiving flexible working requests from staff, who now prefer working from home. What are the Employment law requirements on employers to grant these requests?
How to deal with a statutory flexible working request
Collyer Bristow’s Employment team has prepared a useful step-by-step flowchart for employers, guiding them through the complex process of dealing with a statutory flexible working request from an employee.
Training workshops and seminars bespoke to your business.
Our employment team can provide tailored workshops and seminars to help you and your team navigate and manage the various implications of the post-Covid workplace. Like our advice, our training is bespoke, including case studies and scenarios tailored to your industry and the specific requirements and interests of your business. It can be delivered virtually or in person at your offices. Topics and areas covered are detailed further down the page, however, we welcome discussion on other specific areas of concern for your business and can work with you to meet your needs.
Employment 'quick chat' service for Employers
We offer employers a 30 minute ‘quick chat’ service at a fixed fee to talk through urgent issues, recurring problems or burning questions.
Our ‘quick chat’ service is great value for money for employers and HR professionals who don’t necessarily require a lengthy consultation but just a short discussion to resolve a discreet issue. Clients also find it a useful and cost-effective sounding board to assess whether their issue is actually greater than it might first look, and whether they do require further advice.
Book an Employment MOT
Our Employment MOT service will act as a health-check for your business. We review your employment and HR practices, contracts and policies to see if there are any areas of concern or risk of liability. We can advise you on actual or potential liability, and how to implement best practices to address these. We can also provide a suite of employment policies and contracts tailored to your business, and training on key areas of HR and employment practice.