Spike in flexible working requests sees workers advised to hold off

Flexible working requests are on the up as Scotland shakes off coronavirus-related restrictions – but an employment lawyer believes staff could be in a stronger position if they delay such a move.

Ben Doherty partner and head of employment at Edinburgh-based Lindsays, says increasing numbers of firms are seeking legal advice on how to handle requests from staff who have taken stock during the pandemic.

Among the types of requests companies are seeing are for home-working arrangements as a result of Covid-19 being made permanent, a hybrid of home and office working, as well as compressed hours and term-time working.

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Mr Doherty said: “We are seeing an increase in clients getting requests for flexible working – and I think the number of those will increase further as the current arrangements come to an end.

A hybrid of home and office working is among the types of requests companies are experiencing. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto.

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“My view is that many of those requests are premature. Some employees would be better placed to see what happens at Level Zero – and how long that lasts – before making a request.

“I suspect most employers at the moment still are not fully clear on what they're going to be able to do moving forward – and might make it more likely that they could refuse those requests if made currently, rather than when there’s more of a solid foundation to base decisions on.”

Lindsays pointed out that it is only employees with more than 26 weeks’ service that have a legal right to make a flexible working request, and just one such submission can be made a year.

Workers should keep their powder dry when it comes to making a flexible working request, says Ben Doherty of Lindsays. Picture: contributed.

Mr Doherty also, however, said that from an employee’s point of view, there are some advantages to getting your request in first.

He added: “Employment law states employers have to deal with requests in the order that they are made. The fact that you have said yes to request one actually makes it easier to say no to any subsequent request, because there’s less flexibility in the system.

“One thing that’s for sure, though, is flexible working is going to be an even greater feature of our working world – and that, for employers, being flexible is going to be important if they are to retain good staff. A proactive approach now may pay off in the long run.”

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