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Managing flexible working applications in your business

What’s all this about flexible working applications then?

On 30th June 2014, the law changed to allow all employees to apply for/request to work flexibly.  Before that date, it was only employees who had caring responsibilities but now any eligible employee can make a request.

Who is an eligible employee?

To be eligible to make a flexible working request, the employee must have at least 26 weeks continuous employment with you.

What kind of requests can I expect to receive?

You might be asked if you will agree to things like:

  • Changing days or hours, either reducing hours or perhaps working the same hours over a different number of days;
  • Changing place of work, usually allowing an employee to work from home if they’re normally office based.

How will a request be made?

An employee who wants to request flexible working will have to:

  • Put it in writing;
  • Explain that they are applying to work flexibly;
  • Be specific about the change they’re looking for;
  • Tell you when they’d like the change to take place;
  • Explain what effect, if any, they think the change would have on you as the employer and suggest how that effect could possibly be dealt with.

What do I need to do then?

If you receive a request to work flexibly, you are obliged to deal with it in a reasonable manner.  That means:

  • A 3 month decision period (this can be extended by agreement) to consider the request, discuss it with the employee and notify them of the outcome;
  • Giving consideration to the change in working pattern or working arrangements before meeting with the employee to discuss it;
  • Look at possible alternatives if you cannot accommodate their request;
  • Be able to demonstrate that you have seriously considered the request and explain if it can or cannot be accommodated (and any reasons for reaching that decision).

If I refuse a flexible working request, what reasons can I give?

You can refuse a request for one or more of 8 specific reasons as set out in the recent legislation:

  • The burden of additional costs;
  • A detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand;
  • Inability to reorganise 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; or
  • Planned structural changes.

What do I need to do now?

You’ll need to explain your flexible working procedure to staff so they know what they need to do and what to expect from you in handling a flexible working request.  If you already have a flexible working procedure you should make sure that it’s in line with the new statutory procedure.  If you don’t have a procedure, you should put one in place.

For help with flexible working, writing procedures and general advice on dealing with requests from your staff, get in touch today

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