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Flexible working requests

As highlighted in our round up of 2024, flexible working regulations change from 6th April 2024. Here is a reminder for employers regarding dealing with flexible working requests now.

All employees have the legal right to request flexible working known as making a statutory application.  After 6 April 2024, employees will be able to make this request from day one of their employment instead of having to wait at least 26 weeks to be eligible.

From this date, employers will also be required to deal with the request within two months and discuss with the applicant before refusing the request.

There are many different types of flexible working and whilst it might be a new concept for many businesses there is much evidence that it works well and can be rewarding for both the employer and the employee.

Job sharing – two people doing one job and sharing the hours and the duties.

Working from home – something which many of us have all got used to since the pandemic.

Part time – Working shorter or fewer days.

Compressed hours – working full time but over fewer days for example a four-day week.

Flexitime – working flexible start and end times within an agreed limit but working certain core hours each day.

Annualised hours – working a specific number of hours each year but having flexibility around when they work, typically core hours each week which are topped up throughout the year.

Staggered hours – having a different start, finish and break time to other workers.

Phased retirement – rather than loosing older workers, allowing them to reduce the number of days or hours they work in anticipation of retirement.

To request flexible working, the employee needs to write to the employer.  The employer then has three months to consider it (from 6th April, two months or longer if the employee agrees). If they do agree then the employees contract terms and conditions need to be updated to reflect the change. If the employer refuses, they must discuss the reasons why with the employee first.

Currently an employee can make one request per year for flexible working and from 6th April, employees can make two requests. Employees can also withdraw their application and the employer can treat it as being withdrawn if they miss two meetings to discuss the application.

If the application is agreed, the employer should write to the employee with a statement of the agreed changes and a date for the arrangement to begin.

There are several reasons why employers typically reject an application:

•   The extra costs are prohibitive or damaging for the business.

•   The work cannot be reorganised with other staff.

•   People cannot be recruited to do the work.

•   Flexible working will affect work quality and business performance.

•   The business will not be able to meet customer needs.

•   There is a lack of work to do during the proposed working times.

•   The business is planning making changes to the workforce.

If an employee wants to appeal a decision, they must follow the company’s procedures.  An employee may complain to an employment tribunal if the employer doesn’t handle the request in a reasonable manner (or from April the two-month timeframe), the application is wrongly treated as withdrawn, the employee is dismissed or treated unfairly because of their request, or the application is rejected based on incorrect facts.

Employers need to prepare for the changes in April and we are happy to help review polices to create a happy and productive working environment, so get in touch with our team today.