Flexible working is a way of working that suits an employee’s needs, for example changing your working hours to flexible hours or perhaps hybrid working. All employees have the right to request flexible working, this is known as ‘making a statutory application’.
Following a review of legislation surrounding flexible working requests, the government have confirmed the following changes, but the date for the changes to be actioned is to be confirmed:
- The right to request flexible working: You no longer need to be an employee for 26 weeks to make a flexible working request. It will be introduced for employees to be able to make a request from the first day you become an employee. Currently the legislation states that you need to be an employee for at least 26 weeks to submit a request, this will be abolished.
- Employee can have 2 flexible working requests within a 12-month period: The current legislation states that you can only submit 1 flexible working request every 12 months. This will be abolished, and you will be able to submit 2 requests every 12 months.
The procedure for requesting flexible working will be simplified by removing the requirement for employees to set out how the effects of their flexible working request might impact upon the employer.
It looks like the change allowing employees to make two requests within 12 months, and for the decision time to be reduced to 2 months, will happen sooner rather than later.
Reasons for submitting a ‘flexible working request’
- Reduce working hours to part time
- Change your working hours
- Job sharing, 2 people splitting the hours
- Compress your working hours – work same hours over fewer days
- Remote working request – hybrid and remote working
- ‘Flexitime’ alters start and finish times
- Annualised hours
The rest of the flexible working legislation is to remain the same, and the principle remains that it is a request for flexible working.
8 Business reasons why businesses can reject flexible working request:
The 8 business reasons why a business may reject a request for flexible working are to remain the same, this includes the following:
- Planned structural changes
- The burden of additional costs
- Quality or standards will suffer
- Struggle to recruit additional staff
- Business performance will suffer
- The business will struggle to meet the customers demands
- Won’t be able to reorganise work among existing staff
- The lack of work during the periods you propose to work.
What must an employer do?
As an employer, it is your duty to respond to a flexible working request in a reasonable manner. When a request is made, you will naturally assess the advantages and disadvantages of the request and the impact it may have on the business. A reasonable way to manage a request from an employee is to hold a meeting to discuss their request and to talk through the situation to come up with the best solution for both the employee and the business.
There will be a new duty to discuss alternatives to the request (so that if the employer intends to reject the request, it must discuss whether there are alternative forms of flexible working available). It is not clear whether this will be a statutory requirement giving rise to a cause of action, or just soft guidance.
*If an employer doesn’t handle the request in a reasonable manner, the employee has the right to take them to an employment tribunal.
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