Changes to Flexible Working Regulations

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Introduction
From 30 June 2014 the government’s extension to Flexible Working Regulations means that almost every employee has the statutory right to request Flexible Working

This article provides a guide to flexible working and outlines what you are required to do?

What is Flexible Working?
Flexible working simply means an agreed change to an employee’s working pattern. This could take various different forms including:

part time hours
job share (2 or more people sharing one role)
compressed hours (e.g working contracted hours over 4 days instead of 5)
term time (workers elect to work only during term time)
annualised hours (workers request to work a fixed number of hours over the year – these can be agreed with the line manager and may flex to accommodate employee and business requirements)
working from home (workers can request to work all or part of their hours from home)
any other flexible solution that suits your business needs.
Who can apply for it?
As a result of the changes to the law, every employee with 26 weeks’ or more service now has the right to request flexible working.

Do I have to grant flexible working?
No. The new rights mean only that employees can apply for flexible working, not that they must necessarily be granted it. There are eight grounds on which you might legally be able to refuse flexible working. These are:

An unacceptable burden of additional costs
An inability to reorganise work among existing staff
An inability to recruit additional staff
A detrimental impact on quality
A detrimental impact on the business’ ability to meet customer demand
A detrimental impact on performance
Insufficient work during the periods the employee proposes to work
Planned structural changes to the business that are incompatible with the proposed flexible working.
These reasons have not changed; these are the same grounds on which you could refuse a flexible working application under previous rules.

How should I deal with an application?
The law says that you must deal with applications in a “reasonable manner”.

In practice, this means that you should hold a meeting with the employee to discuss their proposals, and genuinely consider if it could work within the business, it is important to look at both the benefits to the business as well as the barriers.

You may consider 3 possible outcomes

Accept the application for flexible working
Accept with modifications – i.e propose a modified solution that would better suit the needs of the business.
Decline the application – citing one or more of the reasons listed above
Once a decision has been reached you should notify them of your decision as soon as possible in writing – and at least within three months.

If you decide not to grant the request, you must give a clear business case for doing so, citing one or more of the reasons listed above.

The employee has the right to appeal this decision if they do not believe it has been reached fairly.

What if multiple employees apply for flexible working?
Employers are not legally obliged to make a “value judgement” about competing flexible working requests. Instead, each case must be considered on its merits. Requests should be considered in the order they are received. The government’s Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) recommends that employers might discuss the conflict with the relevant employees in order to come to a compromise and, when this is not possible, ask whether they would be happy to use a method of random selection.

More to explore

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