Flexible Working

Flexible Working - What you need to know

As a business, you may find that you are receiving more and more requests for your staff to work on a flexible basis. Many people are requesting job share arrangements, to work compressed hours or requesting to start or finish their working day earlier to enable them to deal with their domestic commitments.

Every employee who has at least 26 weeks continuous employment with their employer has the statutory right to request flexible working.

There used to be a much more detailed process but now the process is triggered when an employee puts their request in writing. Their request should set out how they wish to work flexibly, it should be dated and should cover why they think the request will work and how they will deal with any difficulties that may be caused to their colleagues.

You actually have a three month period (which are you can agree to extend) to consider any request, discuss it with the employee and notify them of the outcome.

In reality, most employers deal with applications far more quickly and you must make sure that you act reasonably.

The employee is only allowed to make one request in any 12 month period.I am text block. Click edit button to change this text.

Under the law, you can only refuse a request on one or more of the following grounds: –

  • the burden of additional costs
  • the detrimental effect on the 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 period employee proposes to work
  • planned structural changes

What if we are not sure if the request for flexible working will work but we want to give it a try?

Whilst the law does not provide for trial periods with regard to a flexible working application, there is nothing to stop both sides agreeing to one and indeed this may be to both sides advantage.

You could suggest to the employee that you are not sure whether the request for work, so rather than reject the request now, you would like to agree to a trial period to see whether the arrangements requested are sustainable moving forwards.

The employee cannot, however, insist the trial period.

t would be a good idea to either issue a new contract setting out the terms that have finally agreed or at least reduce letter setting out what the new changes are, which parts the contractor changed and when they take effect from.

It would be advisable to get the employee to sign a copy of the letter to confirm they are happy with new changes.

It may also be advisable to at least set some dates to catch up with the employee and see how the new arrangements are working. This would particularly the case if a trial period has been agreed and it is important to make sure these dates are adhered to.

The law does not actually require you to hold the we would recommend that you do this as it shows again that you are acting reasonably. A right of appeal would be seen as a crucial part of any flexible working request.

There are no prescribed grounds for an appeal, so the employee is free to raise whichever points they want to. It will give you as a business a good opportunity to review the request and to see whether the gross refusal was correct. It would be advisable to have the appeal heard by someone who was not involved in the initial stages of the procedure.

Inevitably, any request that is turned down that will be very disappointing to an employee and they may try looking for other reasons to justify why you have rejected their request.

You should look at the practice of the business as a whole and if there is a history of always refusing a flexible working request, the business may be at risk of a claim of indirect sex discrimination. If you have also behaved unreasonably handling a flexible working request, the employee may try and argue constructive unfair dismissal