The tribunal finding in Wilson v Financial Conduct Agency could reignite discussion about working from home. But employers and employees should both be cautious about taking too much from the case.  
 
The facts 
As lockdown was lifting, the employer required staff to begin working from the office for two days a week. The claimant, Miss Wilson, made a flexible working request to continue fully remote working, but the employer refused. 
 
While the employer recognised that Miss Wilson had performed well from home, they felt fully remote work would have a detrimental impact on performance, including a negative impact on collaboration and input to strategy meetings, and being unable to coach new team members in person. Rejecting the claimant's appeal against this decision, the employer stated that "your performance and output cannot just be viewed through the very linear lens of your own perspective" and that they must also consider the impact on the wider team.  
 
The claimant brought a tribunal claim, arguing that the decision was based on incorrect facts. She "denied that face-to-face working was better than remote alternatives," arguing that the FCA had excellent technology for remote working and had overstated the disadvantages.  
 
However, the judge found in favour of the employer, accepting that they had considered the merits of the application before rejecting it. The judge was satisfied that the decision had not been based on incorrect facts, as the claimant had argued. Despite the claimant's high level of performance from home, it was reasonable to consider the impact on other workers and decide that some elements of the role would still be better performed in the office.  
 
As such, the employer was entitled to refuse the request. 
 
 
What does it mean for flexible working? 
While the case will be of interest in the discussion about remote working, it is worth noting that Wilson v FCA does not create a precedent and is not binding on employers in other cases. What is stressed in the judgment is that each case depends on its own facts and circumstances.  
 
The finding does not give carte blanche to reject flexible working requests without good reason, but reiterates that what is a good reason will depend upon the facts specific to the case and the role of the employee. The impact on the wider team may be a reasonable consideration where it is relevant. But just because the reasons given by the employer were reasonable in this case, they may not justify turning down flexible working requests in other cases.  
 
Employers must be careful to give each flexible working request individual consideration rather than just apply a blanket policy. So long as the decision is based on accurate information and reasonable factors, the tribunal is unlikely to find a cause to interfere.  
 
 
Read more 
Read more about how to manage flexible working and reduce the risk of legal claims. 
Tagged as: Press, Tribunals
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