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Flexible working claims brought to tribunals doubled in 2020/2021

Research conducted by GQ|Littler found the number of claims brought to employment tribunals relating to flexible working doubled in the past year, with an increase from 127 in 2019/20 to 193 in 2020/21. It is reported that a likely reason for the increase in claims is that since covid-19 restrictions have eased, some workers have been hesitant about returning to the office, and some workers have wanted to build more flexibility into their role.

Employers can only refuse a flexible working request if one or more of the eight prescribed statutory reasons apply. GQ|Littler suggested the most common reasons given by employers are that granting the flexible working request would have a detrimental impact on performance, or on the ability to meet customer demand.

Due to the increase in flexible working claims, in December 2021 the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) published new practical guidance for employers on hybrid working. The guidance suggests that when deciding on a hybrid working policy, employers should firstly define what hybrid working means within the context of their organisation, and they should consider strategic goals and the input from workers. The CIPD state that hybrid working can enable employers to promote the wellbeing of their employees. However, the guidance reminds employers that the rules and practices surrounding hybrid working continues to change and organisations may need to continue developing their approach to effectively implement flexible working within their workplace.