As an employer do I have to Accommodate flexible working for child care?
The concept of flexible working has evolved from a perk to a necessity, especially for parents juggling professional responsibilities and childcare. As an employer, understanding your obligations and the rights of your employees regarding flexible working arrangements is paramount. This article will explore statutory flexible working request, the legal framework, employer responsibilities, and practical considerations when addressing requests for flexible working to accommodate childcare.
Any employee with 26 weeks continuous service can make a flexible working request. Employers are not obligated to grant every request, but they must handle requests in a ‘reasonable manner’, considering the benefits of the requested changes to the employee and the business and weighing these against any adverse business impact.
If you are rejecting the request then please ensure that the employee has the right to appeal the decision.
If your employee does not have 26 weeks continuous service it is good practice to meet with them. You have invested time and money on recruiting and training this employee recently, therefore if you can accommodate the request it makes good business sense to do so as this helps to retain this employee in your business.
Here are your main responsibilities when receiving a statutory flexible working request:
You must consider flexible working requests fairly and objectively. Failure to do so can lead to claims of indirect discrimination, especially if the request relates to childcare.
The Acas Code of Practice on Flexible Working Requests outlines the principles of handling requests. Employers should respond to the request within three months and should only reject a request for one of the eight business reasons set out in the legislation. This includes:
- 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
Open dialogue with the employee is crucial. Discussing the request can help understand the employee’s needs and may lead to a compromise that suits both parties.
Considering a trial period for the proposed flexible working pattern can be a practical solution. It allows both employer and employee to assess the arrangement’s viability without committing to a permanent change.
It’s important to ensure consistency in how you handle requests to avoid discrimination claims. Having a clear, documented policy on statutory flexible working request can help achieve this.
Employees have the right to appeal against a decision. Ensure that your process for dealing with appeals is clear and that you communicate it to the employee.
Before deciding, consider the potential impact on your business, including costs, work distribution, and the ability to meet customer demand. However, also weigh the potential benefits, such as increased employee morale and retention.
Promoting a flexible working culture can be beneficial. Employers who accommodate statutory flexible working request where possible may find improvements in staff loyalty and engagement, which can translate to better productivity.
Technology and Resources
Ensure you have the necessary technology and resources to support flexible working. This might include secure remote access to company networks, collaborative tools, and effective communication systems.
While you are not legally required to accommodate every statutory flexible working request for childcare, as an employer, you must consider and respond to such requests thoughtfully and in accordance with the law. The value of flexible working in creating a positive work environment cannot be understated, as it can significantly contribute to employee satisfaction and retention. Employers are encouraged to approach flexible working requests not just as a legal obligation, but as an opportunity to build a supportive and adaptable workforce.