ACAS recently published practical guidance for employers on hybrid working. Although released prior to 19 July, the guidance was drafted assuming that “Freedom Day” would go ahead and so remains valid.
ACAS’s guidance is a useful reminder of current best practice and reinforces the insights from our recent webinar series on the future of work. For example, the guidance confirms that employers should consult with their workforce regarding hybrid working proposals and that different arrangements could be needed depending on the role and individual needs.
The guidance reminds employers that they should produce a hybrid working policy and consult with staff or their representatives in relation to this policy and any contractual changes. It sets out how you should consult with employees, points to include in a hybrid working policy and how to check if contractual changes are needed.
The guidance also mentions other legal issues which employers should consider, including:
- Some requests for hybrid working will amount to a statutory flexible working request, which must be dealt with appropriately. Please note that the Government is proposing to remove the 26 week service requirement for statutory flexible working requests.
- Employers remain under a duty to make reasonable adjustments for disabled employees when they are working remotely (as well as in the office). Hybrid working may in itself amount to a reasonable adjustment.
- Proposals to change place of work within employment contracts can trigger a legal requirement for collective consultation if 20 or more employees are affected (with an award of up to 90 days’ gross pay per affected employee for failure to comply).
- Data and privacy issues, health and safety obligations and working time requirements also need to be considered, particularly when switching between working environments.
- Employers are able to trial hybrid working but it should be agreed how the trial will be reviewed and what will happen at the end.
One key point, covered both in ACAS’s guidance and in our webinars, is the need for employers to ensure fairness and equality with hybrid working. When implemented without adequate consultation, hybrid working can cement gender based inequalities regarding childcare responsibilities. It also runs the risk of staff feeling isolated or being overlooked for promotions, amplifying existing inequalities.
What is clear is that there is not a “one size fits all” approach to hybrid working. Even if hybrid working cannot be supported, alternatives (such as wholly remote working) should be considered. In any case, consultation with the workforce about how to implement an employer’s proposals in a way that works best for them remains the crucial starting point.