The right to request flexible working

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flexible working coverAs you will no doubt be aware by now, “Flexible Working Rights” changed at the end of June 2014. As a result any employee with more six months service may request flexible working arrangements. However this does not mean there is an automatic right to have their request agreed. To be fair to both parties there is a process to follow. A refusal can be made for sound business reasons relating to a number of reasons, which must be specified.  We all have a tendency to resist change, worry about setting precedents and changing the ‘status quo’ but before refusing it is worth considering the many benefits and financial advantages to your department or business of allowing more flexibility in the workplace.

Read on to better understand the rights regarding flexible working, download useful resources such as the flexible working e-guide and even start a dialogue for peer or professional support.

So what is the right to request flexible working?

Under provisions set out in the Employment Rights Act 1996 and regulations made under it, all employees have a statutory right to ask their employer for a change to their contractual terms and conditions of employment to work flexibly provided they have worked for their employer for 26 weeks continuously at the date the application is made. An employee can only make one statutory request in any 12 month period. Employees who have been employed for less than 26 weeks, agency workers and office holders do not have a statutory right to request flexible working.  nevertheless, employers may still wish to consider a request from these groups as flexible working can bring business benefits as well as benefits to the employee.
Before June 2014 the right only applied to the parents of children under 17 or 18 in the case of parents of disabled children or to those caring for an adult.

Today any eligible employee can apply to work flexibly for any reason. If you have an up-to-date strategy in place you will be in a better position to understand the advantages and disadvantages, both to the employee and to the business of allowing more varied or flexible working patterns. Providing you properly process and consider each employee’s request in turn, you can agree to a request for one and refuse it for another, providing the reason is justified. A common request is to be allowed to work for some part of the week from home. With the advances in technology that may be worth considering for certain employees providing that the technology facilitates them working from home. As the employer you will need to make sure you have a policy in place regarding this, and bring other policies to bear, for example, confidentiality, security of data, etc. You will need to ensure that your IT systems are fit for purpose, secure and manageable. You may need to audit the working environment at home, and you may need to liaise with your insurance providers. Another common request is for employees to fit five working days into four, especially if they are part-time anyway.

Providing you manage flexible working patterns properly, you may find that productivity increases, there is less stress and and therefore better retention of your employees.

Might we suggest that you pre-empt any request by considering it as a normal operating procedure anyway.

Further information

PDFs to read online or download to your PC or smart device

  • The right to request flexible working (including guidance on handling requests in a reasonable manner) PDF – Read online or download
  • The flexible working e-guide PDF – Read online or download
  • Flexible working: myth or  reality? – Leading companies reveal their successes and failures in adopting flexible working and innovative collaboration technologies PDF – Read online or download
  • The good managers guidebook to flexible working – How flexible working can help you improve employee retention, motivation and productivity.

Other resources

  • Use the HR Forum
  • Speak to a friendly HR specialist adviser in plain English

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