Given that all employees can make flexible working requests, is it possible for them to use those regulations to choose which office they want to work from?
The employee’s entitlement includes the ability to make a request relating to “where, as between his home and a place of business of his employer, he is required to work”, but does this mean that they can cherry pick their office of choice? Or are they restricted to a more straightforward choice between home or office? Perhaps they’d like to be working closer to home or nearer to their childcare arrangements.
Unless you have a specific policy in place which addresses this issue, the answer isn’t completely clear. Our view is that the employee would be limited to the choice between home or office based working and that they couldn’t use the legislation to formally request this change. Sadly, neither the relevant ACAS guidelines nor the Consultation on Modern Workplaces give any definitive answer.
That said, it’s often our advice to employers that if they receive a request from an employee to work flexibly which doesn’t meet the strict requirements of the legislation, then it’s good practice to give the request formal consideration anyway and to encourage the employee to submit their request again, this time meeting the legal requirements. Those requirements put the onus on the employee to set out how they believe the change they have requested will impact on the employer and, significantly, how they suggest that impact can be mitigated.
If you have good business reason for doing so, the flexible working request can be rejected and this would have the affect of preventing the employee from being able to make a similar application within the next 12 months. Beware though, you need to be clear about your business reasons for turning down a request and be confident that there’s no discriminatory element to your decision.