In the UK employees now have a legal right to make a request for flexible working hours. The right which previously was reserved for carers and parents with children under the age of 16. The question is, how will this affect lawyers and in practice, will they have access to this right?
The salient point to remember is that flexible working requests can only be used once per year, it is unlikely to have a widespread impact for lawyers. However, what will happen if lawyers make this request and it is refused? Well, the employer has a legal obligation to provide a justified reason as to why the request was refused. Inevitably this will lead to workplace tension but may even be taken further with discriminatory litigation arising from the employer’s lack of agreement for flexible working.
Flexible working seems to be topical discussion point in the legal industry and not just for the single yearly request. The ever-increasing presence of dispersed law firms allows lawyers to have the complete freedom over the way they work.
Firms who offer increased autonomy and flexibility are extremely attractive to lawyers and many Senior Associates and Partners are deciding to take this route where they are rewarded with a much better work life balance and in most cases, there is an added financial incentive.
It is positive to see the rights extended to all as everyone sometimes needs a degree of flexibility and it is fitting with 21st century working practices. It will be interesting to see how the flexible working rights will be used and the disputes that will undoubtedly arise.