By Lindsey Gaimster, solicitor at Legal Futures Associate Bhayani HR & Employment Law
The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the business world and kickstarted a revolution of demands on how employees now want to work, whether it be hybrid or flexible working. Employers are having to rethink their workplace practices as working from home is now becoming a recruitment necessity for candidates.
The terms flexible and hybrid working are sometimes used interchangeably when they are in fact different concepts and models of working. This can lead to employees becoming confused as to what their employer is offering or what they are in fact asking for.
What is flexible and hybrid working and the benefits?
Hybrid working consists of a combination of working in the office and working from home. This option is becoming more popular as this can help employees:
- Save money on commutes to work
- Help families with caring responsibilities
- Attract a more diverse workplace
- Improve mental health
- Support a better work-life balance
Many employers have retained a hybrid working policy following the pandemic as they have benefited from the need for reduced office space and in many cases, have seen productivity increase. The use of technology such as Teams, Zoom and Google Meet has made it easier for colleagues to communicate and perform their duties from home. Often an employee will still perform their full role and core hours from home and be expected to be available during business hours.
Flexible working is the term that references an amended working pattern such as part-time working, working from home or compressed/amended hours. Sometimes this model will allow an employee to perform their contracted hours as and when they choose rather than a fixed working pattern. A flexible working model can help employees with:
- Greater freedom with the way an employee works
- Better work-life balance
- Boosting productivity and employee morale
- Help assist caring responsibilities
- Avoid employee burnout
Both do have similar aspects to each other, but whilst a company may be open to hybrid working, flexible working options may not all be appropriate for the company or the individual employee.
What is the difference between hybrid and flexible working?
A report on flexible working from CIPD stated that ‘among employees who have no access to flexible working, 80% would like it’. This has sharply increased from 2019 when the CIPD did the same report and only 68% stated that they would undertake flexible working if they had access to it. This shows the change in the attitudes of employees wanting the employer to make flexible working more accessible and further supported by the business.
The key differences between hybrid and flexible working are:
- A hybrid working model focuses on the business needs and is only centred around the ability to work from the workplace or at home. Hybrid working does not amend working hours and does not mean that an employee can take time off in the day to do other activities, without prior permission, even if they plan to make the hours up later. Additionally, an employer will often retain the right to require the employee to attend staff meetings or appointments in person.
- Flexible working refers to the individual employees needs e.g. an employee asking to change their start time to allow school drop offs or pick ups. Another example would be requiring all employees to be working between the hours of 10 am and 4 pm with the flexibility to work the rest of their contracted hours at times that suit them. This type of arrangement works well with companies who need staff present at key times but recognises those individuals who occasionally need flexibility but will work extra hours to ensure that their contracted hours are fulfilled. Flexible working is also usually a key consideration when looking at reasonable adjustments for an individual who may have a disability.
What is the benefit of adapting the way your business operates?
Both flexible working and hybrid working have many benefits for employees. The main aspects are less money and time spent on travel, a better work-life balance, avoidance of burnout and improved mental health. All of which impact an employee’s own wellbeing, enjoyment but also productivity, presenteeism and absenteeism. This in turn leads to better staff retention, improved culture and staff morale.
What should my business be doing to implement hybrid and flexible working?
Firstly the company will need to decide what is right for their business. Not also businesses suit flexible and hybrid working models. Any policy that is implemented should be applied consistently and fairly.
An employer should also be aware that an employee with more than 26 weeks of service has the right to make a formal flexible working request which includes hybrid working. The company should have a flexible working policy that clearly sets out the application process and timelines for response. The company has the right to refuse a flexible working request but must do so using a prescribed list of reasons. The company may wish to accept the request or suggest a compromise. Once a request has been made, a further request can not be submitted for another year so it is important that employees are provided with as much information as possible as to how the request should be made and the type of adjustments that are likely to be accepted. There are penalties for companies who do not follow the statutory flexible working application process.
There are plans to make the right to request Flexible working a ‘day 1’ right so it is important that companies have up to date policies and procedures on hybrid and flexible working.
For further information on hybrid and flexible working, please do not hesitate to contact us at email@example.com. If your company does not have a flexible working policy, please contact us and we will be happy to assist further.