Cost of Living Crisis: What can Employers do?

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25 October, 2022

Andrew Halpin

With the cost-of-living skyrocketing in recent months, the pressure of the cost-of-living crisis has become inescapable. As household bills rise and budgets tighten, flexible working is becoming increasingly important for many employees across the UK.

It is crucial now more than ever, that employers look at ways in which they can support their employees through this crisis. Whilst many employers may look to increase pay in line with the Living wage, or offer Salary Sacrifice schemes as cost saving solutions, where employers are unable to keep up with the soaring inflation rates, they may need to look at alternative ways in which they can help their staff.

Another measure that employers can look to explore in support of their employees, is the offer of flexible working. Providing employees with the option of flexibility around where they work can not only help benefit them financially, but also ensures that employees feel comfortable in making the best decisions for their circumstances.

Where employees face a longer commute to work, the rise in fuel prices can make attending the office very costly. For these employees, the offer of remote working for at least some of their week can help them to save on commuting costs. Alternatively, for those employees who live closer to work, working in the office to avoid paying additional electric and gas costs in their homes may be favoured.

With three in four British workers wanting hybrid working to cope with the cost-of-living crisis, where employers fail to provide the option for flexible working, they may see an increase in Flexible Working Requests from those employees' seeking flexibility from their employers.

Flexible Working Requests

Under the Employment Rights Act 1996, every employee with at least 26 weeks continuous service has the right to make a Flexible Working Request, for any reason whether this be reduction in hours or changes to working patterns.

An employee will trigger the statutory process by making a written request in which they detail the following:

  • The date of their application
  • The change to working conditions they are seeking and when they would like the change to come into effect
  • What effect the change may have on the employer and how this effect could be dealt with
  • A statement that they are making a statutory request and if/when they have made a previous application for flexible working.

How to deal with Flexible Working Requests as an employer

When an employer receives a statutory Flexible Working Request, they should consider the request within a 3-month period. An employer should make the arrangements to speak with the employee as soon as possible after receiving the request and should inform the employee that they can be accompanied by a fellow work colleague should they wish to do so.

Any Flexible Working Requests must be dealt with in a 'reasonable manner' which is likely to include assessing the advantages and disadvantages of the application, holding a meeting to discuss the request with the employee and offering an appeal process.

If an employer is not able to grant a request, alternative options should be explored. It is however possible for an employer to reject a Flexible Working Request, so long as the rejection is for one or more of the following grounds:

  • The burden of the additional costs
  • The inability to reorganise work amongst existing staff
  • An inability to recruit additional staff
  • A detrimental impact on quality
  • A detrimental impact on performance
  • A detrimental effect of ability to meet customer demand
  • Insufficient work for the periods the employee proposes to work
  • A planned structural change to your business

Should an employer have grounds to reject a Flexible Working Request, the employee in question will be unable to submit a further request for the for next 12 months.

Employers should be cautious that should they fail to reasonably deal with a Flexible Working Request, an employee may bring a claim to the Employment Tribunal, which could result in the Tribunal awarding a maximum of 8 weeks' pay as compensation to be paid by the employer.

For more information contact Andrew Halpin in our Manufacturing & Engineering department via email or phone on 01772 220239. Alternatively send any question through to Forbes Solicitors via our online Contact Form.

Learn more about our Manufacturing & Engineering department here

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