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Flexible Working Requests

2.01.2014

A new flexible working regime is expected to come into force next year, when the right to request flexible working is to be extended to all employees with 26 weeks’ continuous employment.  The statutory procedure for considering requests is to be abolished with a new duty on employers
to act reasonably within a reasonable period. This note sets out the current situation.

Who can make a request?

The right is available to employees who have been continuously employed by a business for at least 26 weeks and who care for a child or an adult.

Caring for children

An employee can make a request to care for a child under the age of 17, or under 18 if the child is disabled.  The employee must have responsibility for the child’s upbringing or be the spouse or partner of the child’s parent, adoptive parent, guardian, or foster parent.

Caring for adults  

An employee can make a request if they care for, or expect to be caring for, a person aged 18 or over who is in need of care and is one of the following:

•  married to, or the civil partner or partner of the employee;

•  a relative of the employee; or

•  falls into neither of the above categories but lives at the same address           as the employee.

Government guidance suggests that care-giving activities are likely to include:

•  help with personal care, for example, dressing or bathing;

•  help with mobility, for example, getting in and out of bed; or

•  giving or supervising medicines.

What kind of change can be applied for?

The employee will need to make a written request for flexible working, setting out their proposed pattern of flexible working, the impact they believe it will have on the business and how they believe the business can accommodate it.

The employee can request:

•  To change the hours they work.

•  To change the times they work.

•  To work from a different location, for example, asking to work from home.

The right to request procedure

Businesses must follow the detailed statutory procedure following a flexible working request.  We suggest businesses take legal advice as soon as the request is received to ensure that all obligations to consider the request are complied with.

Rejecting or refusing the request

If the business chooses to refuse a request, it must identify one or more of the following grounds as the reason for doing so:

•  It would have a detrimental impact on the quality of the business’ products or services.

•  There is insufficient work available during the times when the employee wants to work.

•  The business is planning structural changes to the organisation of the business.

•  The work cannot be re-organised among existing staff.

•  There would be a detrimental impact on the business’ performance.

•  The business is unable to recruit the additional staff that the employee’s proposal would require.

•  There would be a detrimental impact on the business’ ability to meet customer demand.

•  The burden of additional costs that would be incurred.

The business should give a notice of refusal in writing, dated and stating which of the above grounds apply, and why.  It should also set out the
appeal procedure.

Practical guidance for businesses when handling a request

•  Follow the statutory right to request procedure and for example train managers, diarise deadlines.

•  Demonstrate serious consideration of the request – consult affected colleagues.

•  Think about alternatives for the initial request that may work for both parties.

•  Maintain consistency, record requests and outcomes

•  Explain the decision and the reasons fully and clearly.

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