The number of disputes between employees and employers relating to flexible working requests has continued to rise, shows research by GQ|Littler, a leading specialist employment law firm.
190 employment tribunal cases (which reached “decision” stage) relating to ‘flexible working’ were heard in 2021-22*, a small increase from 186 the previous year.
Sophie Vanhegan, Partner at GQ|Littler explains that the continued increase in disputes may stem from disagreements between employers and employees over how many and on which days employees are required to be in the office, as employers have firmed up their post-covid hybrid working practices.
Sophie Vanhegan says the increase in the number of cases is surprising, given how many businesses have switched to hybrid working models, affording employees greater opportunities for flexible working.
Some employers have chosen to make attendance in the office mandatory on set days of the week, in order to facilitate team-building and greater collaboration. However, some employees are resistant to this, having been given greater choice on which days to come in when lockdown measures were first relaxed, and pushing back on managers.
These disagreements may result in claims being brought to the Employment Tribunals as standalone claims under the flexible working regime (for example to challenge if the employer hasn’t dealt with their request in a reasonable manner) or as part of claims of discrimination or constructive dismissal. Employees with caring requirements and those with health conditions have traditionally represented a larger proportion of claimants in these types of cases.
Sophie Vanhegan says: “The continued rise in employment disputes related to flexible working suggests employees and employers are still finding it tricky to agree on flexible working arrangements.”
“Although many businesses have listened to their employees and implemented hybrid-working models, in some cases it’s proven difficult to find a balance that works for everyone.”
GQ|Littler says employers should agree to a flexible-working request on a trial basis, rather than reject it outright, to help maintain a positive employer-worker relationship. If the trial is unsuccessful, the employer will have evidence to support their refusal of a flexible working request and will also be able to demonstrate that they gave the request proper consideration.
*Year end 31st August 2022
GQ|Littler is a leading specialist employment law firm and the London office of Littler, the largest global employment and labour law practice devoted exclusively to representing management. With more than 1,700 lawyers in 100 offices across 28 countries, GQ Littler serves as the single source solution provider to the global employer community.
Offering risk-based contentious and non-contentious advice, our legal expertise includes employment, immigration, data privacy and employee tax and incentives. Our client base spans a wide range of sectors including financial services, technology, healthcare, professional services and luxury goods, in the UK and internationally.
GQ|Littler is recognised as a leader in its field by both Chambers & Partners and Legal 500, which describes the firm as an “excellent team with strength and depth in every aspect” For expert insight into the pandemic’s impact on the future of the European workplace, including in the areas of remote work, employee wellbeing, managing annual leave and workforce reductions, see Littler’s European Employer Survey Report.