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asking for flexible working times to accommodate religious requirements.


Working through lockdown might be a problem In the post-lockdown working world, many employees will be keen to implement a long-term culture of remote working, encouraged by the lack of impact on business productivity from their enforced remote working throughout lockdown. Therefore, employers may find it difficult to


demonstrate that there will be a detrimental impact on the quality of performance of work, when the business continued to operate eff ectively during the lockdown. T at being said, splitting teams up long term may


not be a viable option for businesses, especially if some workers have expressed an interest to return to the workplace, which could create issues in terms of utilising work space. Before agreeing to any requests, it is important


balance. It is no surprise that colleagues granted this are generally happier and more productive, so it could be an option worth considering for employers, if disruption is avoided. However, also consider any negative aspects


particularly if the employee is a team leader and their input is needed to oversee operations.


Reasons to refuse a request Having carefully considered the request, you can only refuse a request for fl exible working for one or more of the reasons set out in the legislation: - Additional costs will impact the business -


It will make it hard to meet customer demand


- T e inability to reorganise work among colleagues - T e inability to recruit new staff - T e change will reduce service quality - T e change will reduce performance - Lower demand when the employee wants to work - Planned changes to the workforce


When assessing requests for flexible working, you must also be mindful of whether any of the employees are protected under the Equality Act, before deciding whether to accept or refuse their requests. For example, working from home may


be a reasonable adjustment for a disabled employee. However, refusing a request from a male employee may be classed as direct sex discrimination, if the individual was asking for flexible working to accommodate childcare responsibilities, which would have been granted to a female employee. There is also the risk of indirect religion or belief discrimination, where the employee is


ALL THINGS BUSINESS 27


to consider the impact of having some workers at home and some in the workplace, as this could create a disconnect between colleagues and impact the productivity of the entire group. If you accept a request, then the employee’s new work pattern


becomes a variation to their employment contract and requires you to issue a ‘section 4 statement’ detailing the changes, within one month of the changes coming into eff ect. As the workforce leaves lockdown with a very diff erent approach


to life and work than when it went in, employers must prepare for the inevitable requests for fl exible working.


If you have any questions about the issue, speak to Alec Colson, Head of Employment Law at Taylor Walton on 01582 390470 or email alec.colson@taylorwalton.co.uk


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