Q: One of our employees has requested to work permanently from home, as he did during lockdown when we temporarily closed our offices to prevent the spread of covid. I am not happy to agree as I believe he will get distracted by his wife and young children when he should be working. Would there be legal implications if I turned down his request?
A: You will need to consider whether you would still be compliant with one of eight business reasons allowed under employment legislation for refusing such a request. Most employees with at least 26 weeks’ service have the right to request flexible working, which can include working from home for some, or all, of their contracted hours.
The 8 business reasons that would allow you to legally refuse your employee’s request are:
Burden of additional costs
- A detrimental effect on your ability to meet customer demand.
- An inability to reorganise work among other employees.
- An inability to recruit additional employees.
- A detrimental effect on quality.
- A detrimental effect on performance.
- Insufficient work at the times the employee proposes to work.
- Planned structural changes.
You should request your employee puts in writing suggestions about how the new system might work and then arrange a meeting to discuss it within 28 days. Then you can see whether any of the eight clear business reasons for refusing his request apply. Depending on the outcome, you will need to write to him within 14 days of the meeting to either agree a new work pattern or refuse his request.
Allowing or refusing the request may both have other implications. For example, being taken to an employment tribunal, either by this employee if you refuse, or by other employees if you agree. It would be advisable to seek advice from an employment solicitor who can also review your contracts of employment.
This question has been answered by James Denton, a Solicitor with GHP Legal. If you would like to speak to someone about this or any other legal matter it is still possible, and we are doing everything we can to ensure that we continue to offer our high levels of service to our clients. Where possible, we ask that you communicate with us by phone or email.