Hybrid working is here to stay and is likely to be the most requested HR assistance in 2021 and beyond.
Hybrid working is a form of flexible working and if you want to get ahead of potential requests this summer and put a formal policy in place now, you can either adapt your existing flexible working policy to include hybrid working as another category or introduce a separate hybrid working policy – either way, we can help (email firstname.lastname@example.org).
If you incorporate hybrid working into your flexible working policy, any approved request will require a formal change to the terms and conditions of your contracts. Alternatively, deal with requests informally and you could have an agreement between you and your employee to ‘work from home now and again’ without a contractual change. There are potential issues with this approach though, where an employee makes a permanent change to their personal circumstances based on an informal decision: for example buying a place at the beach, all will be fine, until you can see the agreement is no longer working for the firm and need your employee to come into the office every day or even every other day, making it necessary to live within easy commute.
Employment contracts should also state a contractual location. This does not necessarily change as a result of hybrid working, but employees who work permanently from home normally have their home address as their workplace. Employees should be advised to discuss any implications of homeworking with their landlord or mortgage provider and house insurer. There may also be tax implications if an employee wishes to work outside of the UK.
Flexible working request
Making a flexible working request has been around a long time and the current legal position hasn’t changed: all employees who have a minimum 26 weeks’ continuous service have the right to request flexible working and to have their request considered seriously by their employer. This can include options such as job sharing, annualised or compressed hours, flexitime etc. but employees in the alternative asset management sector haven’t typically asked for anything other than the part-time working option. It could get interesting, trying to manage these requests and provide a business case to turn down a request.
Employees’ expectations around flexible working have seen a seismic shift during the pandemic. We would advise senior management teams to examine their own attitude to flexible working too and start thinking about the introduction of a hybrid working policy or adapting their flexible working policy, to ensure decisions are not made based on an ad hoc basis and open to discrimination claims.
An employer may still refuse an application on specific statutory grounds, but decisions still need to be consistent and non-discriminatory.