Flexible working regulations
What is flexible working?
Flexible working can take many forms. It may simply be an agreement which allows your employees to decide their hours of work within set boundaries (e.g. a choice of working 8am-4pm or 9am-5pm). Alternatively, it could consist of an arrangement for employees to work longer hours on most days in return for extra days off. It might also entail working from home or other remote locations.
What are my obligations as an employer?
All employees who have been employed for at least 26 weeks have a statutory right to make a request for flexible working arrangements (before 30th June 2014 this was only available to parents and those with caring responsibilities). In practice, this means that they can ask you for permission to work flexibly, but you are not under any automatic obligation to grant this. You will just need to consider each request in a reasonable manner (which means objectively and fairly), with reference to the statutory grounds, and to notify each employee of their decision within three months of the request being made (unless you’ve agreed to an extension).
Remember also that an employee cannot lawfully be dismissed, selected for redundancy, victimised or subjected to any detriment for asserting his or her right to apply for flexible working.
What are the statutory grounds for refusing flexible working requests?
An employer has the following grounds on which they can decide to reject a statutory request for flexible working (under the Employment Rights Act 1996):
• the burden of additional costs
• detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand
• inability to re-organise 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
• planned structural change
Due to the wide-ranging nature of these grounds, it often comes down to a policy decision of the employer as to whether to allow flexible working arrangements. However, it’s important that this policy is applied fairly to all members of staff.
Do I need to consider all flexible working requests?
Employers only need to consider flexible working requests made by employees with at least 26 weeks of service. Furthermore, they should not have submitted a previous request within 12 months. Employees should submit any requests in writing, stating the date of the current request and nature of flexible work sought, along with the date of their previous request (if applicable). Having a flexible working policy in place can help all parties understand their rights and responsibilities.
We have a range of documents and letters which are helpful for employers who are dealing with flexible working requests. These can be downloaded from our Employment Documents Folder. Click on the relevant links below for further information.