MANY employers have managed their staff and met clients via Zoom and Skype for the last two months – now that so many have found themselves easily connected, both employers and employees may want to work more flexibly even as offices open up again.

But can all staff ask for flexible working now?

Anyone who has been continuously employed by a company for 26 weeks or more can ask to work flexibly, but only once during a 12-month period. They can ask to change the hours they work, the times when they work and a change of workplace, including home working.

Their employer must then respond within three months and must respond reasonably – if the request is refused, it must be on one of these grounds:

The burden of additional costs;

Detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand;

Inability to reorganise work among existing staff;

Inability to recruit additional staff;

Detrimental impact on quality;

Detrimental impact on performance;

Insufficiency of work during the periods the employee proposes to work; or

Planned structural changes.

If home working has worked for an employee through lockdown and has had no obvious adverse impact on their productivity or effectiveness, it would be hard for an employer to argue confidently that it could not work longer term.

Rethinking how work should be done in the future, many employers are now wondering if they really need to have all of their employees on-site, if offices, in particular, might be an unnecessary expense or may at least need to be shrunk to fit the new home working norm.