Since 30 June 2014 all employees have been able to request flexible working hours, and according to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, some 20 million people now have the right to ask to work flexibly.
The new rules extend to all employees the same rights previously reserved for carers and those looking after children. Here are the key points:
Making a request
From 30 June 2014 every employee has the statutory right to request flexible working after 26 weeks employment service. Employees can only make one request in any 12 month period.
- make their request in writing, state the date the request is made, the change to working conditions they are seeking, and the date they would like the change to take effect
- state whether they have made a previous application for flexible work and the date of that application
- indicate what change to working conditions they are seeking and how they think this may affect the business e.g. cost saving to the business
- indicate if they are making their request in relation to the Equality Act 2010, for example, as a reasonable adjustment for a disabled employee.
Responding to a request
Once a request has been received a meeting should be arranged between employer and employee to discuss it. The meeting can provide an opportunity to see what changes the employee is asking for and reasons for the change, and it also allows any compromise to be explored. The law requires the process to be completed within three months of the request being received (this includes any appeals).
Any request that is accepted will make a permanent change to the employment contract, so if the employee wants a temporary change then an agreement may be reached.
Employers should consider requests in ‘a reasonable manner’ and can only refuse them if there is a business reason for doing so.
Acceptable reasons are:
- 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
Best practice suggestions and more detailed information for employers, including a video, are available at the Acas website. Visit www.acas.org.uk and follow links to “Rights and responsibilities at work.”
Contact us for guidance on the best course of action for you.