Flexible Working Times

From 30th June 2014, all workers are entitled to flexible working

Before it was only employees with dependent children or caring responsibilities who had the right to ask for flexible working application to vary their hours or days of work.

Now, the right to request flexible working has been opened up to all employees, provided that they have at least 26 weeks of continuous service with their employer. It is estimated that this new right will now apply to 20 million people in the UK.

It is anticipated that the extension of flexible working rights will be of particular interest to older workers approaching retirement as well as younger workers who are looking for additional training while they work. Requests could include a reduction in days or hours of work, the ability to work from home or job sharing.

This change of legislation will not just benefit employees as flexible working can also be useful for employers, for example, controlling overheads by reducing office space if employees work from home or lower salaries if employees work less hours or days. It can also improve staff morale leading to improved sickness records and retention rates.

The new rules also make applications much simpler for both the employee and employer.  The previous statutory regime has been abolished, with the only requirement that employers are now to consider flexible working requests in a ‘reasonable manner.’’ Failure to do so can result in claims being brought in the Employment Tribunal but of course this will be a tough decision for any tribunal balancing the needs of the individual and the business and assessing the reasonableness on a subjective level. Of course, Employers are not under any obligation to allow the request, but they must ensure that it is carefully considered and dealt with in a fair and consistent manner to avoid any claims to the Employment Tribunal.

The 8 reasons for refusing a flexible working request are:-

  • extra costs that will damage the business
  • the work can’t be reorganised among other staff
  • people can’t be recruited to do the work
  • flexible working will affect quality and performance
  • the business won’t be able to meet customer demand
  • there’s a lack of work to do during the proposed working times
  • the business is planning changes to the workforce

 

Each case should be decided on its merits and Employers should therefore ensure that they have clear policies in place detailing how a flexible working request should be made so that both employees and members of staff dealing with the request can comply with the process and minimise the risk of claims being issued against their business.