190 flexible working employment disputes in the past year

The number of disputes between employees and employers in regard to flexible working requests has continued to increase, according to research by GQ Littler, a leading specialist employment law firm.

190 employment tribunal cases (which reached “decision” stage) relating to ‘flexible working’ were heard in 2021-2022, a small increase from 186 the previous year. 

Sophie Vanhegan, Partner at GQ|Littler explains that the continued increase in disputes may stem from disagreements between employers and employees over how many and on which days employees are required to be in the office, as employers have firmed up their post-covid hybrid working practices. 

Sophie Vanhegan says the increase in the number of cases is surprising, given how many businesses have switched to hybrid working models, affording employees greater opportunities for flexible working. 

Some employers have chosen to make attendance in the office mandatory on set days of the week, in order to facilitate team-building and encourage collaboration. However, some employees are resistant to this, having been given greater choice on which days to attend when lockdown measures were first relaxed, creating a push back on managers.  

These disagreements may increase claims being brought to the Employment Tribunals as standalone claims under the flexible working regime (for example to challenge if the employer hasn’t dealt with their request in a reasonable manner) or as part of claims of discrimination or constructive dismissal. Employees with caring requirements and those with health conditions have traditionally represented a larger number of claimants in these types of cases.

GQ Littler says employers should agree to a flexible-working request on a trial basis, rather than reject it outright, to help maintain a positive employer-worker relationship.

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