Right to Ask to Work Flexibly
Employees who are parents of children under 17 (or disabled children under 18) and have worked continuously for an employer for at least 26 weeks are entitled to submit a statutory application for flexible working (if they have not made a previous application within 12 months).
“Flexible Working” has potentially wide ranging possibilities, regarding hours, times and place of work. For instance, it could include longer days in exchange for days off, early or late start with an early or late finish, flexitime or working from home. However, employers should bear in mind that it is only a right to ask and, while employers are obliged to consider such requests seriously, they have the power to refuse provided they can show one of the various grounds set out below.
Employees must make a written request to the employer setting out what flexibility is requested, how the changes proposed affect the employer and how such effect could be dealt with. The employer must seriously consider the request and meet with the employee within 28 days of receipt to discuss it. They must make a decision within 14 days of this meeting and inform the employee. If the employer decides to refuse the request, they must provide a sufficient explanation of the reason(s) for the refusal:
- extra costs which will damage the business
- the business won’t be able to meet customer demand
- the work can’t be reorganised among other staff
- people can’t be recruited to do the work
- flexible working will have an effect on quality and performance
- there’s a lack of work to do during the proposed working times
- the business is planning changes to the workforce
Whether the employer is prepared to agree to a request to work flexibly depends on the individual circumstances of the request made. If the employer does grant the request to work flexibly then appropriate amendments should be made to the employee’s Contract of Employment to take account of any changes. If the request is refused and the employee thinks the refusal is unreasonable, they have the right to appeal an, if unsuccessful, to make a claim to an Employment Tribunal.