Employees gain new flexible working rights

As of 30th June 2014, all employees now have the right to request flexible working – a right previously restricted to parents and carers.

What is flexible working?

Flexible working is a way of working that suits an employee’s needs. For example, this can be working from home or having flexible start and finish times. In order for an employee to take advantage of it, they must have worked for the same employer for 26 weeks. The different types of flexible working include:

  • Job sharing – The hours to do one job is split between 2 people.
  • Working from home – Some or all of the work can be done from home, or anywhere else other than the normal place of work.
  • Part time – working less than the full-time hours (for example, working reduced hours every day, or working fewer days).
  • Compressed hours – working full-time hours but over fewer days (i.e. fitting in 37.5 hours of work in 4 days instead of 5).
  • Flexitime – the employee chooses when to start and end work (within agreed limits) but still has to work certain ‘core hours’. For example, 10.30am to 3.30pm.
  • Annualised hours -The employee agrees to work a set amount of hours over the year. There can be ‘core hours’ that they regularly work each week, and they make up the rest of their hours flexibly or when there’s extra demand at work.
  • Staggered hours – The employee has different start, finish and break times from other workers.
  • Phased retirement – Older workers choose when they want to retire, allowing them to reduce their hours and work part time.

What must employers do?

Employers must deal with the request in a ‘reasonable’ manner, which includes:

  • Assessing the advantages and disadvantages of the application.
  • Holding a meeting to discuss the request with the employee.
  • Offering an appeal process.

If the employer fails to deal with the request in a reasonable manner, than the employee can take them to an employment tribunal. An employer can refuse an application if they have a good business reason for doing so.

How do I request flexible working?

The process for employees to apply for flexible working is known as ‘making a statutory application’, and the employee must have worked for the same employer for at least 26 weeks. The basic steps to apply are:

  1. The employee writes to the employer with the request.
  2. The employer has 3 months to consider the request (or longer if agreed by the employee).
  3. If the employer agrees to the request, then the terms and conditions in the employee’s contract need to be changed, along with a start date as to when the changes will come into effect.
  4. If the employer disagrees, they must write to the employee with the business reasons for the refusal. The employee can complain to an employment tribunal.

What reasons can an employer reject a flexible working application?

Any of the following reasons are acceptable for rejecting a flexible working application:

  • Extra costs which will damage the business.
  • The work can’t be reorganised among other staff.
  • People can’t be recruited to do the work.
  • The quality and performance will be affected by flexible working.
  • Customer demand will not be met by the business.
  • There’s a lack of work to do during the proposed working times.
  • The business is planning changes to the workforce.

Applications made before 30 June 2014

Applications made before the 30th June 2014 must be dealt by employers under the old rules.