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Flexible Working

| Duncan & Toplis | 25 March 2019

Despite many predictions that flexible working would become much more common in the workplace since the introduction of the right to request in 2003, this hasn't come to fruition. The Office of National Statistics report that the percentage of employee's working flexibly has remained at around 25% over the last 20 years.

The world of work is ever changing and with the development of technology there is a culture of being 'always on' and an increased blurring of the work-life boundary. Flexible working can help businesses meet variable staffing demands, but crucially it also assists in attracting and retaining the diverse skills and talents needed.

Types of flexible working include but are not limited to, job sharing, working from home, reducing number of working hours, compressed hours (working full-time hours over fewer days), flexitime, annualised hours and staggered hours.

All employees, not just parents and carers, who have worked for the same employer for at least 26 weeks have a legal right to request flexible working. Whilst an employer has a legal obligation to consider a flexible working request, an employer can refuse an application if they have a good business reason for doing so.

If an employer rejects the request it must be for one of the following business reasons as set out in the legislation:

  • 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.

How to manage a flexible working request

The law requires that all requests, including any appeals, to be considered and decided on within a period of three months from first receipt, unless the employee agrees to extend this period.

An employee should put their request in writing to their employer and should include the following information:

  • The date of their application, the change to working conditions they are seeking and when they would like the change to come into effect.
  • What effect, if any, they think the requested change would have on you as the employer and how, in their opinion, any such effect might be dealt with.
  • A statement that this is a statutory request and if and when they have made a previous application for flexible working.

An employee can only make a request for flexible working once in any 12 month period.

When a request is received from an employee, the employer must consider it and the request must be dealt with in a 'reasonable manner'. This includes holding a meeting with the employee as soon as possible to discuss their request, assessing the advantages and disadvantages of the application and offering an appeal process if the request is refused. An employee is entitled to be accompanied at any meeting by a work colleague or trade union representative.

Once a decision has been made the employer must inform the employee of that decision as soon as possible. This should be done in writing. If request is rejected the employee is entitled to appeal the decision.

In considering the request employers should be mindful not to discriminate unlawfully against the employee. Should you require any support in managing flexible working requests or are concerned about any discrimination element of a request, please talk to a member of the Duncan & Toplis HR Department who can assist you.

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