On the 30th June 2014, the right of employees to request flexible working arrangements is to be extended further.

At the moment, only employees with responsibility for caring for children or who have care responsibility for an adult can request to work flexibly.  From 20

From 20th June, this will now be extended to include all employees, providing they have at least 26 weeks’ continuous service.  They can apply for any reasons, and don’t have to have caring responsibilities.  This means any employee can make such a request.

The other changes are around the timescales to respond to such a request.  Currently, employers have specific deadlines they must comply with, but this will now be replaced by a “reasonable manner”.  The ACAS guidance on this recommends that at least one meeting is held with each employee making a flexible working request to discuss it.  The only deadline that employers must comply with is that they notify the employee of the outcome within three months of the request being made.

As a change to the previous rules, there will no longer be a right to appeal against an employer’s decision regarding a flexible working request but the ACAS guidance does suggest that it would be best practice to allow a right of appeal.

Employees can only make one flexible working request in each 12 month period, which is already in place.

This change could see an increase in requests being made, however, employers still have the option to reject a request for various business reasons including insufficiency of work during the employee’s proposed working hours, inability to organise work amongst staff and detrimental effect on the ability to meet customer service.

What do I need to do?

Employers should update any flexible working policies they have to remove any reference to caring responsibilities and to remove any timescales.  In addition, we would recommend that employers include a reference to the new obligation to consider requests in a reasonable manner within their policies.   Clients of The HR Booth are already compliant and do not need to take any action.

Are there any benefits to flexible working?

There are lots of benefits for employers as it can support engagement and retention, ensuring your people are more productive, resulting in happier customers and more profits.   As someone who benefited from flexible working when my son started nursery, I can fully endorse the benefits.

I also understand the challenges it presents for employers, and in a lot of cases the hour’s employees want to work are not possible.  Where this is the case, you have a genuine business reason for doing so but the key thing to remember is to apply consistency to ensure you do not face any discrimination claims.  Each request should be reviewed on a case by case basis, and if you are unsure, please seek some advice.

To support employers, we have produced a free policy template that can be updated for use in your organisation.

If you would like more advice on this matter or any other HR related topic, please contact us.

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