Written by Lucy Heskins | July 4, 2014
It was announced this week (30th June) that employees no longer have to qualify as a ‘parent’ or ‘carer’ in order to request changes to either their place of work or hours. As long as the employee has completed 26 weeks’ service, they can make a flexible working request for any reason.
This is a positive move for employees seeking to achieve a better work/life balance, thanks to the Government introducing it as a statutory right in order to stimulate requests. Yet despite this, Steve Williams – Head of Equality Services for ACAS – has reminded us that “it’s a right to ask, and it’s certainly not a right to have”.
What do we mean by ‘flexible working’?
The term may refer to a range of practices focused exclusively around hours of work and location of work. These could include: staggered hours, flexi-time, job sharing, term working and others.
Who can ask for flexible working?
To be eligible, the employee must:
– Be an employee
– Have worked for you for at least 26 weeks on the date he/she makes their request
– Not have made another statutory request during the past 12 months
What’s the process in a nutshell?
– Requests should be in writing stating the date of the request and whether any previous application has been made and the date of that application
– Requests and appeals must be considered and decided upon within three months of the receipt of the request
– Employers must have a sound business reason for rejecting any request
– Employees can only make one request in any 12 month period
So what does this mean for you?
As an employer, you are able to offer more of your staff a better way to achieve a work/life balance, which can be a great perk if you’re looking to attract (and retain) staff.
Technically, the process for handling the request isn’t as rigid as it once was, nor are you required to honour it on the basis of eight wide reasons in existing legislation.
Also, although employees with less than 26 weeks’ service do not have a statutory right to request it, you are still permitted to allow staff to make an application if you wish.
On what grounds can you refuse an application?
Good practice says you’ll need to consider requests in reasonable time, and should you need to refuse them, you can – but only if there is a business reason for doing so. This reason will need to fall within one or more of the following:
• the burden of additional costs
• an inability to reorganise work amongst existing staff
• an inability to recruit additional staff
• a detrimental impact on quality
• a detrimental impact on performance
• detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand
• insufficient work for the periods the employee proposes to work
• a planned structural changes to the business
Advantages to your teams
It’s been suggested that, in addition to parents and carers, young people who wish to train or older workers may seek to take up flexible working.
From your perspective, this move may help you with retention, keeping your staff motivated and productive, a fundamental way to retain key personnel with key skills.
And the potential disadvantages?
This move of course may present some issues for businesses. For example, if a staff member is granted flexible working, this may disrupt others. Or, it could have a negative effect on communication. The important thing to remember is to understand, and assess, the impact – weighing up the long term benefits of the introduction.
Best practice advice from the experts
John Turnbull, of Stones Solicitors, advises: ‘With the new changes taking place, it is now a good time to introduce or update your policy. Employers may also wish to communicate changes to its managers and prepare them on how to deal with requests’.
Interested in learning more?
For more information on flexible working, including codes of conduct and from a legal perspective, make sure to visit these resources: