Flexible working for all
On 30 June 2014 the Children and Families Act 2014 will bring into force the right to request flexible working for all employees who have 26 weeks’ service.
Previously the right to request flexible working could be made in order to care for certain children and adults and the employee and employer would have to follow a prescriptive statutory procedure for the request to be made and considered. As from 30 June both these requirements will be removed. Instead there will be a duty on employers to consider requests in a reasonable manner, supplemented by a statutory code of practice from Acas.
This opens up the right to request flexible working to all employees who have the qualifying service but also relaxes the burden on employers since the strict deadlines for meetings and decisions have been removed.
It does mean that businesses may have to be prepared for dealing with a larger number of requests with perhaps a greater degree of variety. The scope of the legislation could include applications for part-time working, full-time working, annualised hours, compressed hours, flexi-time, homeworking, job-sharing and many more!
Below is a summary of the new right to request flexible working from 30 June 2014.
- The employee starts the process by making a written request. You then have three months to make a decision which can be extended by agreement. The employee can only make one request in any 12-month period.
- You must deal with the application in a reasonable manner. This is determined by the new Acas Code, Statutory Code of Practice, Handling requests to work flexibly in a reasonable manner. When deciding complaints brought with respect to the statutory scheme, tribunals must take the Acas Code into account when it appears relevant.The Acas Code is currently in a final draft form. There will also be an Acas guide called Handling requests to work flexibly in a reasonable manner: an Acas guide.
As before, you can only refuse a request for one (or more) of the eight reasons set out below:
- The 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.
Your employee can complain to a tribunal if you:
- fail to deal with their application in a reasonable manner
- fail to notify them of the decision on their application within the decision period
- fail to rely on one of the statutory grounds when refusing their application
- bases its decision on incorrect facts; or
- treats the application as withdrawn when the grounds entitling you to do so do not apply.
There may also be claims for sex discrimination or constructive unfair dismissal, which could prove more costly, if requests are not dealt with fairly and consistently.
If you have received a request and would like some guidance to ensure you get it right from the start, or if you are an employee and would like some advice, please do give us a call 01730 268211.