As of Monday 30 June 2014 the right to request flexible working has been extended to all employees with at least 26 weeks’ continuous service. A number of other amendments have also come into force.
All employees with at least 26 weeks’ continuous service will now have the right to request flexible working. Previously this only applied to parents and carers.
Under the new changes all employees have a statutory right to ask for flexible working after 26 weeks’ employment. Previously this only applied to the parents of children under 17, or, in the case of a disabled child, under 18, as well as those caring for an adult. An employee is only entitled to make one request for flexible working in any 12month period. This request could include changes to the employee’s working hours, time and/or location.
The changes that have come into force remove the statutory procedures for how these requests should be handled. Previously, employers had strict rules as to responding to the various stages and timeframes. This has been abolished to simplify things. Now, employers must simply reach a decision within three months and be able to demonstrate, if questioned, that they have acted in a “reasonable manner”.
The Acas Code of Practice (linked above) suggests the following as indications of acting “reasonably”:
The reasons for rejecting a request have not changed. These are:
Once an employer has reached a decision they need to tell the employee, in writing, as soon as possible. An employee is entitled to appeal the decision and complaints can be made to the employment tribunal about the employer’s handling of this request, if appropriate. However, it should be noted that unless the employer’s treatment of the employee constitutes unlawful discrimination, the tribunal can only adjudicate on whether the employer followed the procedure “reasonably”, took the claim on the correct facts and seriously and whether its reasons for rejecting the application were “acceptable”.
It seems reasonable to expect an increase in the number of employees requesting flexible working, as a result of these measures. As a result it’s important that employers have reviewed and amended all existing policies, as well as making sure that management are properly trained and supported to deal with these requests. Some approaches you may wish to consider, as suggested by Acas, include: