It is now the case that about 20 million workers have the right to request flexible working conditions.
Will this prove to be a positive development for your business?
Or do you fear it becoming an administrative and employment law nightmare?
The rise of flexible working
Previously, flexible working has only been available to employees with responsibilities as a carer or for those who have children.
The extended position now is that you must give proper consideration to any flexible working request from any employee.
In order to have the right to make a flexible working request, your employee has to have worked for you for at least 26 weeks.
The widening of the right to request flexible working has stemmed from a desire to promote flexibility in working conditions which is not restricted to employees with family responsibilities.
The benefits can now be spread, for example, to older workers who perhaps want to wind down towards retirement. For younger people, who may wish to study or complete training whilst they continue in work, escaping a rigid work pattern may make all the difference.
The pros and cons of flexible working in your business
By giving your staff the option of flexible working, you have an opportunity to improve morale in the workplace.
You may even notice an increase in productivity as your staff reward your flexibility.
Of course, in many businesses, flexible working is already in place. Staggered starting and finishing times – and working from home – are now regular features in many workplaces.
You do need to keep the needs of your business firmly in mind, however.
If, say, all your employees needed to be out in time to do the school run every day, this would be likely to create staffing problems seriously detrimental to your business.
Accordingly, there is a balance to be struck.
How should you respond to a request for flexible working?
What do you need to do if you receive a request for flexible working and how can you be sure that you remain within the law?
In the first place, the request for flexible working must be made to you in writing.
Your employee should include details of the altered conditions they seek and the date from which they would like the change to come into effect, if accepted.
Where you receive a request, you must give it reasonable consideration.
Best practice is to fix a date to have a meeting with your employee to discuss the request.
At the meeting, you can discuss the details of the request and the potential impact it could have on the operation of the business.
You have the right to refuse a flexible working request for one or more of the eight statutory reasons. Most of these relate to it having a negative impact on the business.
In refusing any request, you must keep in mind the need to be able to demonstrate that you have given the request reasonable consideration.
It is important to remember that you have a three month decision period to consider the request, discuss it with the employee and notify the employee of the outcome.
If you are in doubt about what is reasonable in particular circumstances and whether you are acting within the law, you should seek advice from an employment law solicitor.
How we can help
For more information about flexible working practices or any aspect of our employment law services, please call Adelle Morris on 01343 564823.
Another option is to send us a Free Online Enquiry.
We will be pleased to help in any way we can and there is no charge for initial telephone / email discussions.