February 18th, 2015 / Insight posted in

Talk Business: Richard Cummings explains recent changes to flexible working

HR Insight’s Managing Director Richard Cummings discusses the recent changes to flexible working in Talk Business magazine. Flexible Working Request Changes Following the Government’s Consultation on Modern Workplaces, the right to request flexible working was extended to now include all employees from 30 June 2014. What has changed? The main implications are that all employees will have a statutory right to request flexible working for any reason. The only eligibility criteria are that they must have 26 weeks of continuous employment at the date they make the request and must not have made another request within the last 12 months. The strict statutory procedure will be abolished and replaced with a requirement that employers consider flexible working requests in a “reasonable manner”. This means that although the right has been greatly extended, the Government has attempted to balance this with a more flexible employer-friendly process. How should I now handle new flexible working requests? To assist employers, Acas has produced a code of practice on Handling in a Reasonable Manner Requests to Work Flexibly and an accompanying guide. Although the process outlined in the code is not statutory it will be taken into account by employment tribunals when determining whether or not an employer has dealt with a flexible working request in a reasonable manner. Summary of the new process for handling all flexible working requests The process for handling all flexible working requests should be as follows:

  • Upon receipt of a written request, you should arrange to meet with the employee to discuss it. Please note that there is no longer a statutory right to be accompanied to any of these meetings, including appeals, but best practice states that this should be offered.
  • If you intend to approve the request without the need for a meeting with the employee then a meeting is not necessary.
  • All requests should be considered in a non-discriminatory way and can only be rejected for one or more of eight specific business reasons (which remain unchanged from the previous legislation).
  • You must inform employees of the decision in writing as soon as possible. If the request is accepted (even with modifications) then you should discuss when and how the changes will be implemented.
  • If you reject the request you must provide reasoning in writing and allow the employee the right to appeal. Any appeal meeting should also give the staff member the right to be accompanied.
  • The overall time period from receipt of the request to completion of the process (including any appeal) must be no longer than three months, unless an extension has been agreed by the employee.

To conclude This change is likely to mean an increase in applications for flexible working and it will be essential that requests are managed in a fair and reasonable way to minimise the risk of employment disputes developing. If you already have a policy in place, you should review it in order to reflect the changes in how to deal with new requests, to ensure you are following the new guidelines. This article was published in the August 2014 edition of Talk Business.