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Is it legal to make employees work in the office, rather than at home?

In this, ‘Is it legal to…’ we take a look at the topical subject of Flexible Working and what an employee’s rights are since the recent change in legislation in April 2024.

Since lockdown, many employees prefer to work from home and argue that it is more productive. However, more and more businesses are now moving back towards pre-COVID working practices. But are they allowed to refuse or stop an employee from working at home?

Your employment contract should define your ‘place of work’.

However, even if your employment contract does not say you can work from home, you can ask your employer for ‘Flexible Working’.

What is Flexible Working?

‘Flexible Working’ essentially means working in a way that suits your needs (i.e. having flexible start and finish times, working from home etc).

The current law states that all employees have a right to formally request flexible working under the statutory scheme, provided that they have not made two formal flexible working requests during the last 12 months (including requests that have been withdrawn), and do not make a formal request to work flexibly if a request they have made previously has not been concluded.

An employer does have the right to refuse an employee’s request, if they have one out of eight valid business reasons for doing so, some examples include:

  • It will have a detrimental effect on their ability to meet customer demand.
  • It would result in an inability to re-organise work among existing staff.
  • It will have a detrimental impact on the quality of work.
  • It will have a detrimental impact on performance.
  • An insufficiency of work during the periods the employee proposes to work etc.

What happens if my employer accepts my formal flexible working request under the statutory scheme?

If your employer accepts your formal flexible working request, they will typically send you a letter setting out your new working arrangements including any changes to your employment contract and the date on which they will commence. You will also usually be asked to sign and return a copy of this letter to your employer.

In some cases, your employer may agree an initial trial period with you, although this is not a requirement. Otherwise, any changes to your employment contract will be permanent and you should be aware that your right to make formal flexible working requests is limited to two in any 12-month period.

If you wish to discuss your rights to request flexible working under the statutory scheme, please contact our Employment team at Fosters Solicitors on 01603 620508 or complete the online enquiry form below.

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    This article was produced on the 5th June 2024 by our Employment team for information purposes only and should not be construed or relied upon as specific legal advice.