Legal advice | HR tips for firms looking to roll out a hybrid working pattern

HR tips for firms looking to roll out a hybrid working pattern

Many employers and HR departments are continuing to think about post-pandemic working structures.

Some employers will make a full return to the office; some will continue working remotely and others will consider a hybrid model of work that sees employees split their time between working in an office and at home.

For those that are thinking about a hybrid approach – similar to that of BP, Spotify and EY – there will be questions about best practice when it comes to implementing it and what should be considered beforehand.

As such Elaine Huttley, Employment Law Partner at law firm Irwin Mitchell, has shared several things that HR and employers should consider when looking to adopt a hybrid work pattern.

From defining what the employer means by hybrid working, to setting out how flexible the arrangement is, Huttley’s shares her tips below.

Decide what you mean by hybrid/agile working

Huttley said: “The concept of agile working focuses on work as an activity rather than the place it's performed. People work where, when and (to some extent) how they wish to do so. It can include working at multiple sites, at clients’ premises, at home or in other suitable places or outside of the typical 9-5. 

“Hybrid working is a relatively new term that can include agile working, blended working or split working patterns or arrangements. Staff attend the workplace for part of their working week and work from home, or elsewhere, remotely for the rest of the time. Although hybrid working usually involves homeworking, it's not the same as homeworking, where an employee works all (or almost all) of their working hours from home.”

Decide whether agile/hybrid will be restricted to certain roles

Huttley said: “Before introducing a formal policy, you'll need to decide whether to exclude certain job roles from its scope. Obvious examples are cleaners, receptionists and security staff etc who need to be physically present in order to do their jobs. But there might be other roles which are also less conducive to hybrid working such as those that require continued or close co-operation with colleagues.

“Then you'll need to decide how you are going to determine applications. The following issues may be relevant:

  • Can they carry out the main functions of their role from home? 

  • Do they need daily, or regular, face-to-face supervision or management?

  • Are they self-motivated? Can they work without direct supervision? Can they separate their work and home lives?

  • How much attendance on-site is reasonably required?

  • What is the ratio of hybrid workers and homeworkers to site-based employees in the relevant work group or department?

  • Will it impact on other colleagues?

  • Do they [have] a suitable home or other remote working environment available? Will they be sharing it with others who are also working from home? Will they have to supervise children or look after other people during their working time?”

…and how flexible the arrangement will be

Huttley said: “Do you want your hybrid staff to stick to working their contractual hours (such as 9-5) or do you have core hours during which they must work, but can be flexible outside of these? Do you want to agree a fixed pattern of days the employee will come into the office and those where they will work from home (or elsewhere). Or will you allow more flexibility?

“In some cases you'll want to agree a fixed schedule, but in others you'll be happy to give the employee complete flexibility over where and when they work. 

“Whichever option you choose, make sure that the employee knows that you may ask them to come into work on specific days (even if they fall outside of the days when they ordinarily work in the office) to attend team meetings, provide cover for other staff or deal with other unexpected issues.”

How will staff apply?

“Any request to change where an employee is required to work will constitute a statutory flexible working request under section 80F of the Employment Rights Act 1996. You'll need to comply with the statutory procedure which imposes strict time limits around your decision making, gives employees' the right to be accompanied and allows the employee to appeal against your decision if they don't get exactly what they wanted.

“Hybrid working is a new concept and one option is to ask employees to speak to their manager first to talk through what working arrangement they want. Their manager should then explain the process they need to follow.”   

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