An analysis of employment tribunal data from 2021 and 2022 by HR consultancy Hamilton Nash has revealed that employment tribunal claims concerning remote working increased by 50% in that period.
The data indicates a rise from 27 claims in 2021 to 42 claims in 2022. Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic there were only six remote working claims. The trend is continuing with the first half of 2023 recording 25 cases related to remote working. This mirrors a similar trend in flexible working claims, which increased by 52% from 2019/20 to 2020/21.
Is there going to be a remote working backlash? It was recently reported that the chief executive of private equity group Blackstone has said that remote workers do not "work as hard". In the meantime, a recent survey from recruiter Hays found that full-time office workers now outnumber hybrid staff for the first time since the Covid-19 lockdowns. Companies including Disney, Apple, BlackRock and Zoom are amongst firms that have asked employees to attend the office more frequently in recent months.
However, there is also push back the other way. Lloyds Bank has been accused by unions of inflicting "unnecessary disruption" on the lives of its employees after telling them to return to the office for just two days a week.
Given that many employees are now used to the flexibility that hybrid working arrangements give them, it's unlikely that all employers will want to insist on employees working full-time in the office. As the employment tribunal data shows, remote and flexible working requests are something that employers will have to be prepared to deal with appropriately as a matter of course. It's also worth bearing in mind the changes to the flexible working regime which will be coming in next summer. These will, amongst other things, enable employees to make two flexible working requests a year, and reduce the time for an employer to come to a decision on a request from three to two months. The right to request flexible working is also due to become a "day one" right.