October 30, 2014

Flexible Working – now everyone has the right

The right to request flexible working has now extended to all employees – not just those caring for a child or dependant adult.

Under the provision of the Children and Families Act 2014 from 30th June 2014 an extension of the right to the existing request flexible working process was introduced.

The statutory right to request procedure has now been replaced by an ACAS Code of Practice. These changes are intended to make it easier for employees to apply to change their hours, the days they work or the locations they work from.

As per other ACAS codes of practice there is a duty on employers to deal with requests in a reasonable manner.

Employers now have three months from the date of an application, including any appeal, to make a decision on the request. However, this timeframe can now be extended by agreement between both parties.

An employee does not need give a reason for their request however, as per previous arrangements, an employee has to have 26 weeks continuous service to make an application, only one request can be made in any twelve month period and any changes will result in a permanent change to your employee’s terms and conditions of employment.

Even if employee does not have 26 weeks service it is worth considering the request especially if there are potential discrimination issues.

The employee should advise if they are making the request under the Equality Act 2010 if for example it is a reasonable adjustment in relation to a disability. The new ACAS procedure does not advise you have a formal meeting however it may be advisable to have a formal meeting especially if there are potential discrimination issues.

Refusal doesn’t need to be reasonable unless it could be deemed as discriminatory and then you as an employer can always offer a trial period to see if the request will work in practice.

The outcome of the request should always be confirmed in writing and there is no requirement to allow an appeal.  However, it is strongly recommended that employers should allow an appeal if the flexible working request is rejected.

How is this going to affect your business?  Early indications have shown that these changes have increased the number of applications being received by employer with a significant increase in the amount of advice given in the first 3 months of it being in force.

This has led to an average of 44% increase in the number of pieces of advice being given from the 1st July 2014 to the 30th September 2014, in direct comparison to the same date range in 2013.  Whether this is an initial rush due to the publicity surrounding the changes or if this is just the start of something bigger, remains to be seen.

As with all issues we would strongly advise you make the advice line your first port of call should you need to discuss any HR related concerns.

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