The future of flexible working – post-COVID-19

Flexible working as a legal concept has existed in the UK since 2003. Yet since then, most employers have been reluctant to offer or fully utilise it for the benefit of their staff. What should and could happen now?

The law

Since 30 June 2014, employees with at least 26 weeks' continuous employment have been able to make a statutory request, in writing, for flexible working, for any reason. If they do make a request, employers must deal with that request in a reasonable manner and notify the employee of the outcome (including any appeal) within a three-month period – unless that timeframe is extended by mutual agreement. Only one request can be made in any 12-month period, and if an employer wishes to reject a statutory request, it can only do so on one of the following grounds:

  • the burden of additional costs;
  • detrimental effect on the ability to meet customer demand;
  • inability to reorganise work among existing staff;
  • inability to recruit additional staff;
  • detrimental impact on quality of work;
  • detrimental impact on performance of employee;
  • insufficiency of work during the periods the employee proposes to work; or
  • planned structural changes.

Some employers, instead, or as well as, also offer a more informal approach to flexible working, to avoid the rigmarole or bureaucracy that can be associated with following the statutory scheme.

Options and benefits

Flexible working can take many forms; it’s not just about part-time working and job sharing. Flexible working can be achieved through the use of, or combination of, home-working, compressed working hours, annualised hours contracts, term-time working arrangements, sabbaticals and/or career breaks, or gradual retirement opportunities.

There are also many benefits to permitting flexible working, for both the employer and the employee...

An employer’s culture and values will therefore increasingly come under the spotlight, particularly from a retention and attraction of talent perspective.


This information is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any of the information given. Please contact us for specific advice on your circumstances. © Shoosmiths LLP 2024.



Read the latest articles and commentary from Shoosmiths or you can explore our full insights library.