Employees have a right to request flexible working arrangements, including working from home, but there’s a lot to think about before you decide whether this is appropriate. Here’s our quick guide to dealing with these requests, and how to manage employees if working from home arrangements are granted.

Statutory flexible working requests can be made once every 12 months by all staff who have been employed continuously for at least 26 weeks – and they often involve changing the location where work is carried out i.e. from home rather than at the normal workplace.

If an employee makes a flexible working request, you should consider it carefully and in line with the statutory code of practice. When deciding, think about the benefits to your employee and your business, and compare them to any adverse effect the change might have.

Although you should think about the request, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to agree to it. However, in order to refuse, one of the statutory grounds for rejection must apply. They include:

  • Burden of additional costs
  • Inability to meet customer demand, re-organise current staff or recruit new staff
  • Reduced quality or performance
  • Not enough work during the requested hours

Assessing suitability

In order to make a decision, you need to consider whether both the employee and the role are suitable for homeworking.

A homeworker will have to work for long periods without supervision, so they have to be:

  • Self-disciplined
  • Self-motivated
  • Able to separate their home and work life

Managing a homeworker may represent some challenges, such as the concern that it may take longer to build trust into the employment relationship between a homeworker and an employer.

A homeworking policy can help you to structure the agreement, including the rights and duties between the two parties. The policy should allow the employer to have access to the employee’s home for the purposes of:

  • One-to-one meetings
  • Health and safety assessments
  • Set-up and maintenance of equipment

All employers have a duty of care towards their employees, so before homeworking is approved, they should check if the home is suitable. Employers should carry out a health and safety assessment and if there are concerns, they should be resolved before working from home commences. Home working requests should only be granted if you’re satisfied that it’s entirely suitable.

In some cases, homeworking may stem from the duty to make reasonable adjustments where the employee has a disability. If working from home is considered a reasonable adjustment in these circumstances, then this change should be permitted.