In June 2021, Global Banking & Finance Review published an article by McGuireWoods London office managing partner Dan Peyton and associate Adam Penman about the anticipated trend toward more flexible working arrangements post-pandemic and relevant statutory considerations for employers.
Since 2014, they explained, employees with at least 26 weeks’ of continuous employment have had the statutory right to request different working arrangements, such as changing their work hours or shifting to a hybrid schedule of part office and part remote work. Most legally defined grounds for denying such requests relate to quantifiable impacts on a business, but some are more subjective, such as negative impact on quality and performance of work.
“The impact of COVID-19 on such requests and employer responses is and will be on what qualifies as a ‘good business reason’ for denying a request,” they noted. “If a business has operated well whilst employees have been working from home, it may be very difficult to demonstrate that any continued, or partial, work from home arrangement, would have an adverse impact on such benchmarks.”
The article addressed other influencing factors, including impact of remote working on a business’s culture, and the potential for discrimination claims if a business rejects a request.
Peyton and Penman emphasized the likely impact of the market itself on such decisions, “as employees may react with their feet and move to employers which offer more competitive flexible arrangements.”