From April 2009 employers can expect a massive increase in the number of employees requesting flexible working. New legislation has substantially extended the number of employees who will be eligible to apply for a change in their working arrangements.
The Employment Act 2002 introduced a statutory right for employees to request flexible working which can include changes to the number of hour worked, work patterns or work location. The right applies to employees who have worked for the employer for 26 weeks and who have parental responsibility for a child. The age limit for the children has now been extended from under the age of 6 years old to children up to the age of 16.
Not only should employers be prepared for an increase in requests, but they should also ensure that they have the appropriate systems and documents in place in order to respond to and manage those requests effectively.
The right to request flexible working still also applies to employees with disabled children under 18, or care for an adult who lives with them.
Benefits of Flexible Employment
In the current credit crunch and in expectation of an easing of credit restrictions flexible working is now being viewed as a positive alternative to redundancy. Staff training and experience account for a massive investment by employers which is all lost by making substantial redundancies. By opting for flexible employment conditions employers may be able to retain their staff whilst awaiting an improvement in the economic climate and defer the costs associated with redundancy, and employees avoid losing their jobs.
There are, however, a number of other advantages of flexible working for both staff and employers. By allowing staff to adopt flexible working patterns,such as flexi time or job share arrangements, you are likely to see general job satisfaction, motivation and employee loyalty increase, leading to better productivity and staff retention and so higher turnover and lower recruitment costs for your business. Flexible working also allows you to structure your workforce more efficiently, especially with arrangements such as shift work or working from home, which may allow you to open longer or simply improve your cost-effectiveness.
Flexible Work Employment Contracts
It is important for employers to document any switch to flexible working. All the employment contracts listed have been recently updated to reflect the new statutory holiday entitlement that applies fro 1st April 2009, increasing the statutory holiday entitlement to 28 days from 24 days inclusive of bank holidays.
Flexible Working Policy and Related Documents
Employers should take great care if refusing the right to flexible working. The Flexible Working Policy and related documents will provide the employer with guidelines and records on giving proper consideration to any requests.
The Employment Tribunal compensation awards announced in February include compensation for wrongful refusal of flexible working request of £2,800.00.
The contents of this Newsletter are for reference purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. Independent legal advice should be sought in relation to any specific legal matter.