From 30th June 2014, the right to request flexible working will be extended to all employees with 26 weeks’ service, rather than being limited to parents of children aged under seventeen or if disabled, under eighteen or to employees classed as “carers” for vulnerable adults.
The good news is that employers will no longer need to follow the statutory procedure contained in the Flexible Working (Procedural Requirements) Regulations 2002. Instead, they will be allowed to use their current HR procedures but they must consider all requests in a reasonable manner.
So what is reasonable? Provided you have a good business reason for not being able to accommodate a request, which, ideally, can be supported by evidence, you can refuse a request for flexible working. Each request should be considered in the context of that particular employee’s working environment and will be assessed at the time of the request being made. This means, that agreeing a request from an employee 6 months ago does not mean that you automatically have to agree to requests from similar employees now, when circumstances may have changed. Equally, employees working in one department (on a production line for example) may have a request legitimately refused whereas an employee in an administrative role may not.
As an employer you will need to notify the employee of your decision within three months of a formal request being made, unless an extension is agreed. The request can be treated as withdrawn if the employee, without good reason, fails to attend either two consecutive meetings to discuss the request or an appeal.
The employee may bring a tribunal claim if you wrongly treat the request as withdrawn or if your decision is not made in time. The claim must be brought within three months of the date on which the application is treated as withdrawn or the final decision is communicated.
We have therefore amended our flexible working policy to take account of these changes. We have replaced the statutory procedure with a stepped process in line with a best practice and have retained the right of appeal. We have also prepared a flexible working request form which you may wish to use for applications from your staff.
Note: Our advice is that when dealing with flexible working requests you need to be mindful of the risk of potential discrimination when making your individual decisions on granting or refusing such requests. If you have any concerns about this please give us a call and we can talk it through with you.
Please note that this information is provided for general knowledge only and therefore specific advice should be sought for individual cases.
If you would like to receive your FREE copy of the revised procedure together with a copy of our Flexible Working Request Form, please contact Lia on firstname.lastname@example.org. If you would like to book a review of your contract and handbook or to subscribe to our monthly updates service to keep your contracts up to date, please contact me on email@example.com or 07974 314312