Member Article

All employees can now request flexible working arrangements

From 30th June 2014, the legal right to request flexible working has been extended to all employees who have at least 26 weeks service. Prior to 30th June only employees with caring responsibilities had the right to request to work flexibly. Here is a brief overview of what change this means for your business and what you will need to do.

What is flexible working? There are many types of flexible working arrangements. These include:

  • Part-time working
  • Job sharing
  • Term-time working
  • Condensed hours (working the same number of weekly hours over a smaller number of days)
  • Working from home

What is the legal position?

All employees who have at least 26 weeks service can make a request to work flexibly. The important thing to note is that there is no legal obligation for you to actually allow employees to work flexibly. The law states that employees have the right to make a formal request and have it properly considered. You can legally reject a flexible working request for one of the following reasons:

  • 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 your business

What process should be followed? The law sets out a specific process that must be followed for flexible working applications. The good news is that the process has been simplified as part of the new legislation. Here is a summary of the process:

  1. The employee must make their request to you in writing. They can only make one request per year.
  2. Discuss the request with the employee, how it would impact the business and how those impacts would be managed.
  3. Make your decision. You can choose to accept the request, agree an alternative arrangement with them, or reject the request explaining your business reasons (which must fall under one or more of the legally acceptable reasons for rejection listed above).
  4. If you accept the request, or agree an alternative arrangement, it is recommended that you agree a trial period of say 3 months to give both parties a chance to see if the new arrangements work in practice. At the end of the trial period, the new arrangements, if they are to continue, would become permanent and would be a formal change to the employee’s contract of employment.
  5. If you reject the request, it is recommended that you allow the employee an opportunity to appeal, although this is not a legal requirement.

The whole process must be completed within 3 months of receiving the request from the employee.

What are the implications for employers? Many forward thinking businesses already allow flexible working as it is a good way of attracting and retaining talented people who increasingly expect a greater work-life balance. For example, at Onetouchteam, we offer flexible working hours and allow all of our employees to work from home.

For those businesses who have not considered flexible working before, it is worth thinking now what your approach to flexible working will be, before you receive any applications. You’ll also want to think about how you will handle multiple flexible working applications. For example, if you can’t accept them all, you might want to work on a first-come, first-served basis.

By Stuart Hearn, CEO of Onetouchteam.com, the online HR toolkit for small businesses

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Onetouchteam .

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