Flexible working refers to arrangements that allow employees to have greater control over when, where, and how they work. This can include options such as flexitime, remote working, compressed workweeks, job sharing, and part-time work. The aim of flexible working is to support employees in achieving a better work-life balance, increase job satisfaction, and improve productivity.

In the case of Wilson v Financial Conduct Authority an employment tribunal considered an employer's rejection of a flexible working request to work entirely from home.  The employer's policy was that employees should work in the office 40% of the time.

Currently, an employer must notify an employee of their decision, including the decision on any appeal, within three months from the date of the employee's request (or a longer period if the parties agree).  From April 2024, this decision period will be reduced from 3 to 2 months.

York Press:

Facts of the case

Miss Wilson, had been employed since 2005 as a senior manager at the Financial Conduct Authority.  After the pandemic, the FCA created a new policy mandating that staff should be in the office 40% of the working time.  Her line manager initially rejected this request on the basis that approving the request could have a detrimental impact on her performance/quality of output.  She claimed that the FCA had failed to deal with her request within the time limit and that in reaching its decision, the FCA had relied on incorrect facts, namely that if she worked entirely from home, it would have a detrimental impact on quality and performance.

Where an employer fails to comply with the time limit for a flexible working request, the tribunal can award up to 8 weeks' pay.  The tribunal noted that Miss Wilson's position within the FCA as a manager was important when considering the application.  The tribunal found that the FCA had considered the merits of the application. It also acknowledged a limitation to the ability to "observe and respond to non-verbal communication" when remote working.

The tribunal acknowledged that this judgment centres around one of the "key issues in the modern workplace".  Although the reasoning of the tribunal is interesting, the tribunal makes it clear that there is not one solution which will work for all companies.

For further help please contact Kalpesh Nakeshree, Head of Employment at Ware & Kay Solicitors on York 01904 716000 or email kalpesh.nakeshree@warekay.co.uk).