BNY Mellon: Can They Unilaterally Withdraw Existing Flexible Working Arrangements?
It has been widely reported that the behemoth US bank, BNY Mellon, has revoked the flexible working arrangements which have enabled staff to work from home for a proportion of the working week. The bank has justified their contrarian approach to the issue by stating that the move was designed to increase efficiency by improving staff “interaction”. Unsurprisingly, the move has been met with an outcry from employees who had got used the to the current arrangements, or, in some cases, had joined the bank precisely because of the availability of these arrangements which allowed them to juggle the various demands on their time, such as child care. So what is the legal position? In the UK, all employees have the legal right to request flexible working arrangements, although they must have worked for the same employer for at least 26 weeks to be eligible. Flexible working can include reducing hours of work, taking time off during school holidays, job sharing, changing shift patterns and/ or working from home. Employers must deal with requests in a ‘reasonable manner’ and give them reasonable consideration, and cannot lawfully reject such applications without considering them fully and rationally. Examples of handling requests in a reasonable manner include:
- assessing the advantages and disadvantages of the application, the latter of which can include the burden of additional costs, the impact on quality of work and customer demand, and the inability to reorganise work amongst the team.
- holding a meeting as soon as possible to discuss the request with the employee.
- Giving the employee the opportunity to explain the changes they are seeking and when they want them to take effect. In addition, giving them an opportunity to explain what effect the changes would have on the employer and its business and how these could be dealt with.
- offering an appeal process (the whole process needs to be concluded within three months of the original flexible working request)