New flexible working guidelines in the UK
We don’t think that being fair and flexible with your staff should need to be made law in order for companies to be able to have meaningful dialogue with their employees. The fact is that flexibility is a bit of something we could all use from time to time, so the best companies will already have some form of policy around this which allows for suitable amounts of flexible working. That being said, it doesn’t suit businesses of all sizes and shapes, and so if it doesn’t suit your business and you can explain why you’re allowed to say “no” to any requests for flexible working.
So what is Flexible Working?
The concept of flexible working is quite broad but essentially it is a working pattern that your employees adopt which accommodates other commitments and needs outside of work. This might include requests where your employees ask to:
- Compact their working hours into less days by working longer hours
- Work part time, or partially from home
- Work annual hours spread differently across the year
- Start earlier in the day or finish later in the day
Who can request Flexible Working?
As of yesterday, the 30th June 2014, all employees that have 26 weeks continual employment with a company can make the request. Only one request can be made by an employee in any 12 month period.
How should someone apply for Flexible Working?
All requests must be made in writing to the employer clearly outlining the following:
- Their exact requirements including start date
- The reasons for making the request to change
- The effect it could potentially have on the business and how it can be dealt with
- Confirm whether they have previously made a request and when
So what happens next?
Employers should hold a meeting within 28 days of receiving the request with the employee, who has the right to be accompanied by a work colleague of their choice. Within 14 days of the meeting the employer must then either:
Confirm that the request has been granted. It would be reasonable to request a trial of the proposed changes using a set time period, to ensure that the changes will work for both parties.
Confirm that the request has been rejected, outlining clear business reasons for the decision. It must also be confirmed that the employee has the right to appeal which they would need to do within 14 days.
What are the business reasons for saying No?
You might not have a business that allows for working patterns to be amended to be more flexible for one or more employees. That’s absolutely fine, you can still say no but you have to provide adequate reasoning. Examples of reasons you might give include:
- Unable to re-organise work among other staff
- Additional cost will be incurred by the business
- The business will be unable to meet customer needs if approved
- There would be a detrimental impact on performance or quality of work
- Work is unavailable during the periods the employee wishes to work
- Planned structural changes
You should remember that you need to evidence your reasoning as best you can. More importantly, you should reassure your employee that their request has been taken seriously and if possible you should seek to make amendments to your business to be more accommodating going forward where you can.