You may have read in the press about the new family friendly rights being introduced to enable employees to work more flexibly. What is all this about and how does it affect you? Our employment solicitor, Andrew Crisp, explains.
Since 2003, employees with responsibilities for children or vulnerable adults have been allowed to request flexible hours. It was all part of the government’s drive to make employment more ‘family-friendly’.
On 13 November 2012, in its response to a consultation, the government confirmed its intention to extend the right to request flexible working to all employees who have been employed for over 26 weeks.
The New Procedure
The new procedure is intended to be simple enough for all employers to follow without having to consult their employment solicitor (although you can call me if you need to!)
From 30 June 2014, employees with at least 26 weeks’ continuous employment will be able to make a request for flexible working for any reason. It is no longer limited to those employees who have responsibilities to look after others.
The request procedure goes something like this:
- The employee triggers the procedure by making a written request.
- The employer then has three months to consider the request, discuss it with the employee and notify the employee of the outcome.
- The employer must deal with the application in a reasonable manner.
- The employee may not make more than one request every 12 months
The new law does not expressly give the employee the right to appeal against an unfavourable decision. However, ACAS recommend this, so you may be deemed to have acted unreasonably if you don’t do it.
What if the employer doesn’t want to accept the request?
The employer can only refuse the request if it is for one of 8 potential reasons. These are:
- the burden of additional costs;
- detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand;
- inability to reorganise work among existing staff;
- inability to recruit additional staff;
- detrimental impact on quality;
- detrimental impact on performance;
- insufficiency of work during the periods the employee proposes to work; or
- planned structural changes.
The Acas Guide to Handling Requests in a Reasonable Manner gives observations and provides best practice examples in respect of these reasons.
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