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Are You Ready For Flexible Working?

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Flexible working is now upon us.

From 30 June 2013 British businesses and their employees have become subject to new flexible working rules and those rules are broad in scope.

After 26 weeks of employment, employees have a right to request flexible working which can entail a wide variety of options.

On the face of it what this means is that qualifying employees can now request flexible working once per year and their employer is under a legal duty to provide an answer to that request.

What is Flexible Working and How Can it be Requested?

Flexible working is a flexible term.

It can include flexibility regarding the place of work such as home or remote working; the type of contract – part time or full time; alternative methods of defining the working period – hours per year for example; options to take unpaid leave in school holidays; or flexi time so that work can be done in non-standard hours.

Certain groups of employees such as parents and carers have had the option of requesting flexible working before but other employees will now have the option too. In order to do so they will need to make a formal, dated application for their requirements setting out when they would like the change to be effective.

In the employee’s application the person must explain how the request might affect their employer and how that could be dealt with. They must also state whether they have made a previous application and that the application it is a statutory request.

Dealing with Flexible Working Requests

Upon receiving an application for flexible working employers must respond reasonably and within three month of receipt. They must provide a sound business reason if they refuse it which might include:

  • 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 change to the business

Issues for Employers

Flexible working may provide great benefits to employees and to employers by enabling work to be done in a way that satisfies the needs of the organisation and the motivations of staff. It is hoped that it will lead to increased productivity, lower labour turnover, and reduced absenteeism.

The new flexible working rules are not without potential pitfalls though.

The risks of discriminating in favour of those with children for example may be an issue, particularly for smaller businesses. There are also risks if businesses cannot show that their reason for refusal was one of the sound business reasons or was based on incorrect facts.

We recommend that businesses have a policy for dealing with flexible working requests in place and ensure that it is applied consistently. For specialist advice, please contact Aneil Balgobin via e-mail or by telephone on 0207 611 4848.

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