Employers want a well-educated and flexible work force that allows their companies to be competitive and employees want the flexibility that enables them to balance work and family life. Advances in technology have led to a changing working environment where remote working is becoming both increasingly accessible and popular, with the result that requests for flexible working arrangements are becoming more common. Flexible working has also been known to increase productivity and retain key employees in the workforce.
In the UK, the provisions of the Employment Rights Act 1996 provide a statutory right for employees to ask their employer for a change to their contractual terms and conditions of employment to work flexibly, provided they have 26 weeks service. Such a request can be made every 12 months. There is no Irish equivalent to this provision, other than a statutory right to request changes to working hours or patterns of work, which is limited to employees returning from parental leave. Otherwise, flexible working arrangements are at the discretion of the employer.
Flexible working patterns are those which alter what might be seen as a traditional work pattern, in other words working a set number of hours per day, five days per week. There are many ways an employer can offer flexible work arrangements, including, at its most basic, varying start and finish times within certain limits (flexitime), compressed hours, in which the same number of hours are worked per week but in fewer days, and job sharing. Other forms of flexible working patterns include part-time and temporary work and working at or from home.
There is no absolute legal entitlement for any employee to be granted flexible working arrangements or to work from home. However, there is a view that an employer should give consideration to each and every request from an employee to be permitted to work flexible arrangements.
Dealing with requests for flexible working
While there are no legislative provision that governs flexible working specifically, there is a Code of Practice on access to part time work, issued by the Workplace Relations Commission and one on Lone Workers, issued by the Health and Safety Authority which deals with the practicalities of working from home. Furthermore, various areas of law and insurance issues arise when considering putting in place home working arrangements. Codes of Practice do not have statutory effect but they are of strong...