United Kingdom: Employer’s Update on Flexible and Hybrid Working Regulations


published on 13 February 2023 | reading time approx. 4 minutes

Among the many changes brought about by the COVID pandemic, one of the most significant long-term impacts on the workforce is the growing prevalence of flexible and hybrid working.



Thousands of employers found that remote communications and flexi-hours were beneficial, not just to prevent close contact in work environments, but to improve employee retention, job satisfaction and productivity.


Of course, this hasn't been without controversy, with some high-profile business people speaking out against flexible working, but it remains important for employers to be up to speed with evolving legislation and employee entitlements.


This guide discusses what has changed, how businesses should prepare, and key points to be mindful of when recruiting new staff, negotiating working conditions, or implementing changes to existing policies.


The Growth in Flexible and Hybrid Working

Office for National Statistics (ONS) data shows that around 5 percent of the British working population worked primarily from home before the pandemic, which altered substantially with the introduction of work-from-home mandates.
Prior to 2020, The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) found that around 65 percent of businesses did not offer the option to work from home or allowed under 10 percent of staff to do so.
While the current environment is still adjusting, the ONS reports that in May 2022, 24 percent of adults were working from home at least part of the time, and 84 percent say they intend to adopt a hybrid working approach, with some hours in the workplace and others at home.
The proportion of workers who expect to return permanently to the workplace fell from 11 percent to 8 percent between April 2021 and February 2022, reflecting a considerable change in attitudes and expectations across all sectors and industries.
Much depends on the nature of the organisation since some roles cannot accommodate hybrid or flexible working. Still, with updated legislation due to make flexible working requests a day one right, employers must take a careful look at their HR procedures. 

Implementing Flexible Working Policies

All employees should, according to best practice, have a contract of employment that sets out information, including:
  • The number of hours worked 
  • The place of work
  • The duties and responsibilities covered
  • Salary and other benefits.
However, the normal location of work does not necessarily need to change where employers are introducing hybrid working, nor do hours need to change. The variable may be where contracts state specific working hours, such as eight hours per day from 9 am to 5 pm.
Flexible and hybrid working go hand in hand, with “flexi” referring to the ability to structure hours worked and potentially the location of work according to other responsibilities and personal circumstances.
For example, working parents might work partial hours during the traditional day and complete outstanding tasks in the evening. Employees with health conditions that mean a conventional working day is challenging could work the same number of hours but split into those times when they feel able to work productively.
Likewise, the four-day working week, currently being piloted by 4 Day Week Global in the UK, is another con­sid­eration, also called compressed working. This approach permits staff to condense weekly hours into four working days rather than five, without a change to pay, while ensuring all duties and tasks are completed within that shorter period.

As a rule of thumb, if an employee submits a formal request to change their working conditions to include hybrid working, this should be recorded in an official contractual document. However, employers can agree to some adjustments informally depending on the content of their existing employment contract.

The immediate responsibility for businesses is to review their contracts, policies, and protocols, ensure full compliance with changing employment legislation, and implement any appropriate changes following con­sultations with staff.

Legal Rights to Flexible Working Requests

Although the legal right to request flexible work has been in place since April 2003, the legislation has been updated, with a government announcement on 5th December 2022 confirming it would support a Bill to update requirements and allow flexible working requests from day one.
Currently, Flexible Working rules state that:
  • All employees are entitled to submit a request.
  • Applications can be made after 26 weeks of continuous employment.
  • Flexible working can include working from home or flexible hours.
  • Employers must manage requests reasonably and hold meetings to discuss the proposal.
  • An appeal process is a mandatory right if the request is denied.

Failure to reasonably consider a flexible working request can result in an employment tribunal, although there are legitimate business reasons that flexible working might be regarded as impossible.
The revised bill will remove the 26-week eligibility requirement, permit two requests per year, and require employers to respond within two months rather than three.
Employees will not be required to report on how their flexible working request might impact the employer, and employers must consult and explore alternative options before rejecting a request.

Creating HR Policies Around Hybrid and Flexible Working

These terms are often used interchangeably, although flexible working normally refers to time-based flexibility. In contrast, hybrid working means working in different locations, blending time in the workplace and at home.
A flexible work arrangement could include both and incorporate compressed hours where staff commit to fulfilling their responsibilities within fewer hours or during their chosen hours.
There may be considerable benefits for employees and employers, but the step change in convention in some cases requires an overhaul of policy, training, and management styles.
Managing and monitoring a remote and hybrid workforce is very different to managing an in-house team of staff, and practicalities may include:
  • Dealing with flexible working requests from individuals and at the team level.
  • Implementing processes to coordinate meetings, schedules, and collaborative work.
  • Using technology to ensure smooth communications, changes to performance management systems and team building.
  • Updates to inclusion and diversity policies and adaptations to engagement and induction approaches for new members of staff.
Other impacts could involve IT usage, dissemination of IT hardware and assets for home use, and data protection policies to ensure remote or hybrid workers comply with legal and organisational regulations.
With the growing demand for hybrid working, putting steps in place to support a smooth transition should ensure businesses experience minimal downtime or challenges when coordinating changes to work envi­ronments.
Businesses must also give thought to their policies around roles eligible for hybrid or flexible working, with clear guidelines available to enable employees or prospective applicants to assess their suitability and the availability of flexible working to meet their requirements.
For example, a policy setting out which roles or positions are eligible for hybrid working, in what scenarios and under the management of which senior leader provides clarity that can mitigate the potential for miscom­munications and disruption.
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