Record number of UK workers sue employers for refusing flexible working requests

Monday, January 17, 2022 7:30 a.m.

According to new data shared with AM City this morning.

The number of claims related to flexible working requests may be driven by employees resisting employers’ attempts to bring them back to the office or otherwise seeking to build more flexibility into their role, the law firm said. of GQ|Littler work.

In some companies, there has been tension between employers and employees over return-to-work timings, as the easing of Covid restrictions has made it easier for them to reopen their workplaces.

Sophie Vanhegan, partner at GQ|Littler, said: “The increase in cases related to flexible working suggests that it is becoming a battleground within some companies.”

“We may be seeing the start of a series of claims against employers who have failed to deal with flexible working requests in a ‘reasonable’ way.”

Sophie Vanhegan, Partner at GQ|Littler

She said employees with parental responsibilities and people with medical conditions (or with vulnerable relatives) may have contributed to the increase in claims.

The most commonly used are that flexible working would have a “negative impact on performance” or a “negative effect on the ability to meet customer demand”.

Vanhegan added that, to deny an eligible employee’s flexible working request, employers must consider one or more of the eight prescribed reasons to apply and reference them in their denial.

Source: GQ|Smaller

Complaints of discrimination

Complaints to labor courts regarding flexible working are often brought alongside complaints of discrimination.

For example, a new mother was awarded £185,000 by an employment tribunal which found she suffered indirect sex discrimination when her employer refused to consider her request for flexible working.

“When it comes to bringing employees back to the office, employers need to beware of taking a heavy-handed approach. Many industries are currently facing significant challenges recruiting and retaining talent,” Vanhegan explained.

“At the same time, more and more candidates are now asking for flexible arrangements at the recruitment stage, and may therefore be put off by potential employers who are not open to such requests. Likewise, if existing employees feel their demands are not being properly addressed, they can vote with their feet.

She noted that employers who are unsure about granting employees’ flexible working requests should consider accepting them on a trial basis.

“This way, they can gather evidence on whether or not the arrangement is workable for the business as well as the employee, and then provide more detailed evidence if any of the eight specified refusal grounds are met” , concluded Vanhegan.