REFORMS TO FLEXIBLE WORKING RIGHTS; WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
LUKE HUTCHINGS >
The new extended rights to request flexible working hours came into force on Monday 30 June. Previously, only employees with children under 17 or carers of an adult dependant had a right to flexibly working hours.
The new Flexible Working Regulations 2014 extends the right to ask for flexible working to a much wider class of people. Now, all employees (agency workers are excluded) with at least 26 weeks’ continuous employment may make a request to their employer for flexible working hours, or a change to his/her normal hours for any reason.
A change to an employee’s working hours includes the following:
- to the hours he/she works;
- to the times he/she is requires to work; and
- to the place of work (e.g. working from home)
When making the application to the employer, the employee must:
- Make the request in writing; and
- set out the following:
- the date of the application;
- the change to the working conditions he/she is seeking;
- when they would like the change to commence;
- what effect, if any, he/she thinks the change will have on the employer;
- how (in the employee’s opinion) any such issue will be dealt with;
- state that it is a statutory request and if he/she has made a request before (if so when); and
- whether the request is in relation to the Equality Act 2010 (e.g. as a reasonable adjustment for a disability).
Most larger employers will probably have a standard form for the employee to fill out.
A request can only be made once within a rolling twelve month period. After the application has been made, the employer has up to three months to deal with the request, which includes consideration, discussion with the employee and notification of the decision to the employee. The employer must deal with the request in a reasonable manner.
If the request is successful, the employee will be entitled to work the hours as agreed, on a permanent basis (unless otherwise agreed). This will be a contractual variation to the employment contract. Within one month of the decision, the employer must issue a “section 4 statement”; a written statement of the changes to the employee’s terms and conditions, which should have been already provided in accordance with section 1 of the Employment Rights Act 1996.
Refusal of a request
An employer may refuse a request if:
- The request does not meet the statutory requirements
- If the employee is not eligible; or
- If the employee fails to comply with the procedure.
Also the employer may refuse if it cannot accommodate the request. There are eight specific grounds for refusing a request (only these grounds may be relied upon) and they are all subjective:
- the burden of additional costs;
- detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demands;
- 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; and
- planned structural changes.
Currently the legislation does not expressly allow an employee to appeal against a refused request. However, the ACAS Code suggests that employees should be entitled to do so.
It is anticipated that the new legislation will provide employees with a better framework in which to make their request. The new procedure is less prescriptive and more workable.
Modern technology and research into the topic suggests that employees are happier and more productive if employers are, in turn, more flexible. In theory, these changes could lead to a more content and efficient workforce. One does wonder, though, at the possible impact on very small businesses, many of whom are used to dealing with proposed changes to working hours quite flexibly already, without the need for a formalised process.
If you have any queries regarding the above article or any employment law issue, please contact us on 01733 333 333 for our Peterborough office or 020 3540 4444 for our London office.
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