Returning to the workplace: How to handle requests for remote working

As we approach the end of another national lockdown, workers will soon be invited to return to the workplace. There are many reasons, such as a better work-life balance or reduced commuting time, that an employee might want to continue working from home even after workplaces reopen. Employers should therefore start preparing for an influx of requests for long-term, remote working and begin considering the issues they may face in handling such requests. 

Who can request remote working?

Employees must:

  • Be employed for at least 26 weeks,
  • be legally classed as an employee, and
  • have not made a previous flexible working request in the last 12 months.

Our key tips when handling requests for remote working

  • Ensure requests are in writing. Requests, by law, must be considered within a three month period from first receipt unless you agree with the employee to extend this period.
  • Meet with employees directly to discuss their requests. Try to avoid asking why they may want to work from home. This could lead to discrimination issues for you later down the line if their request is not accepted.
  • Follow the procedure and timescales formalised in your remote working policy and ensure this document is up to date
  • Consider all the options available for remote working. Compromising can help find a solution to remote working, that works for your business and the employee.
  • Make sure the new terms and conditions of remote working for the employee are at your discretion as the employer. An example of such conditions can include compromising a reduced pay due to a reduction in travel expenses or on the basis that the employee is unable to carry out a certain job requirement at home.
  • Inform your employee of the decision made as soon as possible and formalise any changes of an employees working arrangements in writing before being accepted.
  • Carefully consider the employee’s request. Take time to weigh up the benefits with the challenges that such change in working arrangements may create for your organisation or for the employee.
  • If you reject a request for flexible or remote working, make sure the reason is of a legitimate business one to avoid any discrimination issues and discuss your reasoning with the employee directly. Valid reasons, by law, for rejecting such requests be found here.
  • Treat all employees requests equally. For example, parents or carers should not be prioritised over any requests from other employees. This will help you avoid any claims of discrimination.

Handling requests for flexible working can be complex and there are a variety of important issues to consider. The most successful arrangements are those that are carefully considered with appropriate policies and procedures in place to support them. If you would like any further help or advice, we will be happy to help!

Useful guides and advice for remote working can also be found on the ACAS website. You can also contact the team at [email protected] if you have further questions. 

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