Changes to flexible working
From 30 June 2014, there will be a change to the right to request flexible working.
What is changing?
The right to request flexible working will be extended to all employees with 26 weeks’ service. Beforehand, it was available to employees with caring responsibilities for children under 17 (or 18 if disabled) and for certain dependents.
What do I need to be aware of?
The basic right to request flexible working remains unchanged. Employees can still make one request per year and the statutory procedure that employers used to follow is being replaced by a more general duty to deal with requests in a reasonable manner and within a reasonable period of time – this will be three months unless an extension is agreed.
ACAS have prepared a new draft statutory Code of Practice to give guidance as to what is meant by ‘reasonable’. The code will be taken into account by tribunals when considering cases on this point.
How does this affect employers?
The eight business grounds on which an employer can turn down a request for flexible working remain. These are very wide and are as follows:
• The burden of additional costs
• Detrimental affect on 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 periods the employee proposes to work; and/or
• Planned structural changes
Employers may now get an increase in the number of requests for flexible working and will have to be careful that the three month time limit is not exceeded unless agreed.
In any tribunal claim brought on this issue, the sanction remains at eight weeks’ pay, subject to the applicable cap on a week’s pay. Remember however that these types of claims are often linked to a discrimination claim which has potentially unlimited compensation. It will therefore be important to monitor the uptake of this amended right and ensure that all requests are treated consistently and fairly. Temporary changes to terms and conditions should also be considered.
What we can do for you
We can help you review your current policy to make sure it is correct and reflects these current changes. We can also help you review how you should handle such requests in the future.