Can an employer withdraw from a flexible working agreement if the arrangements are no longer in its interests?
Once a flexible working request has been agreed it forms a permanent change to the employee's contract, unless agreed otherwise, and cannot be changed without further agreement between the employer and employee. The employer and employee can agree that the arrangements are temporary, or subject to a trial period. In some circumstances, for example where an employee is caring for someone with a terminal illness, the employee may wish to have only a temporary period of flexible working, which the employer may be able to accommodate.
In many cases it will be in both parties' interests for the new working arrangement to be permanent. Employees who request flexible working because they have caring responsibilities may have difficulty changing their care arrangements should the employer wish to revert to the previous working arrangements. Similarly, the employer may be unable to accommodate the employee's request for a return to a previous working pattern, because another employee may have been recruited to cover the work, or the work may have been rearranged.
If, following a request for flexible working, a permanent change is made to a contract, the employer cannot make unilateral changes to the contract. If it does, the employee will have a potential claim for breach of contract and, possibly, unfair constructive dismissal.