New Flexible Working procedures Coming into force from 30 June 2014
The right to request flexible working is being extended to all employees with at least 26 weeks’ service, except agency workers unless they are returning from parental leave.
Employees may make a written request to change their hours of work, the times or place that they work.
Employees may only make one request within a twelve month period, but whilst failing to consider an informal request made within a year will not breach the flexible working regime there could be other claims such as discrimination.
The employer must deal with the request in a reasonable manner and inform the employee of its decision within three months, unless the parties agree a longer period. ‘Reasonable manner’ is not defined in the legislation but Acas have produced statutory guidance which makes recommendations, including to discuss the request with the employee as soon as possible at a meeting to which they are given the option of being accompanied.
Employers should weigh up the benefits of the request for the employee and the business with any negatives, possible costs and logistical implications. Following this consideration, the employer must let the employee know in writing as soon as possible whether the request is accepted or whether a compromise is possible, the employer could also offer a trial period.
Unless the employee is ineligible, a request may only be refused on one of the following grounds:
• 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; or
• planned structural changes.
Accepting the request will vary the employment contract and the employer must issue a statement to the employee confirming the change. Any further changes, including reverting to the previous work pattern will be a further contractual change.
If the employer rejects the decision, the guidance states that the employee should be allowed to appeal.
An employee is entitled to bring a claim against the employer for breach of the flexible working regime, for example for failing to deal with the request in a reasonable manner. Where a claim is well founded, the Tribunal may make an order for reconsideration of the request. As well as or instead of this it may also order the employer to pay compensation of up to eight weeks’ pay.