From 30 June 2014 every employee will gain the right to request flexible working after 26 weeks’ continuous employment. Up until now, the right has only been available for carers, or people who look after children.
Flexibility can be requested in terms of the hours or times of work or the employee’s place of work. This includes applications for:
- part-time working
- full-time working (if currently part-time)
- annualised hours
- compressed hours
- staggered hours
- term-time working
There are in fact very few limits as to what the employee could request.
The Government has forecast that the new right will result in an additional 81,000 requests for flexible working a year and that 64,000 of these new requests will be granted (about 80%). In our experience we think they are being overly optimistic, not necessarily in the number of estimated requests but certainly the number granted.
It is expected that the new right will be of particular interest to older workers who want to work differently as they approach retirement and to young people entering the labour market who may want take up additional training or learning while they work.
Requests by employees should be in writing and only one request can be made in any 12 month period. Requests (and any appeals) must be considered, discussed with the employee (if appropriate) and the decision notified to the employee within three months of the receipt of the request.
As part of the right, employees can expect their request to be considered in a ‘reasonable manner’ by employers. If an employer intends to turn down a request for flexible working, they can only do so for one of the following business reasons:
- 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
- planned structural changes
Failure to deal with the request properly may result in a Tribunal claim.
Employment is one of the largest and fastest changing areas of law, with legislation and case law constantly setting new precedents. At Clifton Ingram we make sure you stay informed about areas of law that can affect you, and if you find that you need to take action in some form, be it in drawing up new employment contracts, handling disciplinary or grievance issues, or dealing with contractual redundancy issues, we can make sure that you follow procedures correctly and avoid opening yourself to any unwanted exposure or liability.