September 3, 2015

Top tips for flexible working: Family friendly entitlements

With the start of the new school year upon us, many of your employees will be requesting flexible working hours.

The right to request flexible working for ALL employees has been in place since June 2014.

Does your company have the right policies and procedures in place to be a flexible place to work?

Previously the right was limited to working parents and those looking after a dependent. Prior to the change, a survey by Jobsite June 2014 found that just 53% of British businesses were aware of the coming changes and only 25% thought of the impact that the changes would have on their business. It further found that 66% of employees said that if the opportunity were available they would request flexible working.

What is Flexible Working?

It varies the working pattern of the employee and can include working from home, part-time or flexible hours, shift working or job sharing.

What’s in it for you (the employer)?

There has been plenty of research to show that a flexible workforce is a happier and more productive one, and with modern technology, it is now easier for employers to agree a departure from the standard 9-5 office hours.

Can an employee demand flexible working and does the employer have to grant the request?

It is important that the employer bears in mind that the law gives the employee the right to “request”.  Therefore, it is not an absolute right to be given it. The request must be made in writing setting out the change the employee is seeking, when they want it to start, and what effect they think it would have on their employment/role.

What happens once the request has been made?

Once the request has been made in the appropriate manner, the employer is required to consider the requests objectively and in a “reasonable manner”. The employer is expected to hold a meeting with the employee to discuss their flexible working request in good time.

The employer must notify the employee of the decision within three months of the request being made, unless an extension is agreed. Notification can be by phone or by some other agreed way – it doesn’t have to be in an actual meeting.

However the employer must provide clear business reasons for any rejection. Examples of business reason may be; the burden of additional costs, changes may have a detrimental impact on quality or they are unable to reorganise work among existing staff to name a few.

Is a rejection final, or can it be challenged?

Instead of rejecting the request outright, the employer may consider a trial period, say 3/6 months. There is no right to provide the employee with an appeal, unless stated in your policy. However, good employment practice would suggest that employees be given a right of appeal.

Is priority still to be given to parents/carers?

ACAS guidance has made it clear that employers do not have to make value judgement about the most deserving. Each case should be looked at on its merits and the impact on your business. This approach is considered to be the best in order to avoid a claim of indirect discrimination from non-parents/carers.

What if a number of employees approach you requesting flexible working?

Again the ACAS guidance suggests that a random selection such as pulling names from a hat may be the best approach or the adoption of a temporary or trial period could be agreed, with regular reviews.

Does acceptance of the request represent a change to the employee’s terms and conditions?

It will represent a permanent change with no right to return to the original terms in the future, unless otherwise agreed.

Your Employment Law Expert- Moorepay

Making payroll & HR easy for UK businesses, Moorepay is always available to advise and support on such matters. Why not download one of our handy employer resources?

 

Call 0844 391 1921 for more information on flexible working.

 

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About the author

Andrew Weir

Andrew has a wealth of experience in advising and representing clients of all shapes and sizes in a range of Employment Law topics from unfair dismissal through to all forms of discrimination and the complexities of TUPE. Andrew heads up our Advice Line and Advocacy teams who provide Employment Law advice to our clients 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and support our clients in presenting defences at Employment Tribunals throughout the UK & Ireland.