In June 2014, new amendments to the Children and Families Act were passed, one of which gave all UK employees the right to request flexible working from their employer. Flexible working is a broad term which is used to describe a way of working that suits an employee’s needs, which differs from a normal 5-day working week. Examples of flexible working include an employee who wishes to work from home for some days during the week, or wants to amend their working hours so that they start later or finish earlier.
The passing of this legislation means that all employees with 26 weeks of continuous service have the legal right to request that their employee consider the possibility of allowing them to work flexibly. In order to request flexible working from their employer, an employee needs to submit that request in writing, detailing the changes requested and the date which they would come into effect. The employee also has to explain what effect the change will have on the employer and give information on how such change could be dealt with.
Once a request for flexible working has been received, the law says that an employer must deal with this request in a ‘reasonable manner’. Examples of dealing with a flexible working request in a reasonable manner would include dealing with the request promptly and quickly, thoroughly assessing the advantages and disadvantages of the request, and holding a private meeting with the employee in question to go through their request in more detail.
It is a good idea for employers to have a policy in place for dealing with flexible working requests, so that they are prepared for these requests when they come in. Employers can refuse flexible working requests, but the reason for refusal must be one of the below reasons, as detailed by the 2014 legislation:
- the burden of additional costs;
- an inability to reorganise work amongst existing staff;
- an inability to recruit additional staff;
- a detrimental impact on quality;
- a detrimental impact on performance;
- detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand;
- insufficient work for the periods the employee proposes to work;
- a planned structural change to your business.
For more information on dealing with flexible working requests, employers can refer to the ACAS Code of Practice. Employees and employers with questions about flexible working can phone the Fit for Work Advice Line on 0800 032 6235 to speak to a dedicated advisor. For a wealth of other work-related health information, see the Fit for Work Advice Hub.