flexible working

THE LAW IS CHANGING

The law in relation to flexible working is changing on 30 June 2014. The right to request flexible working will be extended and the procedure will be simplified.

The following are the key changes:

  • Any employee with 26 weeks’ service can now apply for flexible working. Previously only those employees with parental or caring responsibility could make a flexible working request.
  • There will no longer be a statutory procedure for considering a request. Employers will now have a duty deal with flexible working requests reasonably and within a reasonable period of time.
  • Employees will no longer have a right to be accompanied at meetings or the right to appeal against rejection of a flexible working request, though both are recommended by ACAS as good practice.
  • Employers will no longer be required to give detailed reasons for a request being turned down.

The following will remain the same:

  • Employees will have a right only to make a request to work flexibly. It is not an automatic right to be granted flexible working.
  • Employees must submit their request in writing, specifying:
    • it is a flexible working request;
    • details of the change requested;
    • the date on which it is proposed it will take effect; and
    • what effect, if any, the employee thinks it will have on the employer and how any such change might be dealt with.
  • Employees may submit only one statutory request in a 12 month period.
  • Employers can only refuse flexible working for one of the following 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;
    • insufficient work during the periods the employee proposes to work;
    • planned structural changes.
  • The decision must be notified to an employee within three months of the date of the application (unless extended by agreement).

Employers must take care to ensure they do not unlawfully discriminate against an employee when making a decision on a flexible working request, for example by discriminating against a female employee with childcare responsibilities or failing to identify a flexible working request as a reasonable adjustment for a disabled employee.

ACAS has produced this draft Code of Practice to help employers understand their obligations, which can be taken into account by employment tribunals. ACAS has also produced this Good Practice Guide.

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