Flexible working requests change on 30 June – are you ready?

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On 30 June the rules relating to flexible working will change for all employers. To help your business understand the new rules we have set out a guide to the new legislation below:

Flexible Working

A flexible working request is a request from an employee to change their hours, the times they work or the place they work (e.g. working from home).

Who is eligible to request flexible working?

All employees with 26 weeks’ service can make a request but such a request can only be made once every 12 months.  Prior to 30 June 2014 only those employees who were responsible for the care of an adult or a child were able to make such requests.  The right does not apply to agency workers.

What is the procedure?

The employee must make the flexible working request in writing. The request must be dated, state that it is a flexible working request and specify what changes they want, how this will impact upon the business and confirm whether they have made any other flexible working requests and when.

The employer has three months in which to discuss the request with the employee (unless the request can be approved straight away), consider the request and inform the employee of its decision. Employees should be permitted to bring a work colleague along to any meeting and be allowed to appeal the decision. A request can be refused but only on one of the eight specified grounds. If an employer relies on a different reason, does not consider the facts, breaches the legislation or acts unreasonably then an employee can submit a claim to an employment tribunal.

Potential Problems

When considering a request employers should always be aware that refusing a request can lead to sex discrimination or disability discrimination claims. For example, a woman who makes a flexible working request so that she can care for her children could bring a claim for indirect sex discrimination. This is because the requirement to work full-time is a practice which disproportionately fewer women than men are able to comply with and as such could be discriminatory unless the decision can be justified. Similarly a disabled employee who makes a request to attend medical treatment could potentially bring a claim for failing to make reasonable adjustments if the request is refused.

Employers are advised to review their flexible working policies and update them where necessary.  At Morton Legal we can draft or update your flexible working policies so that your business is in step with the current legislation and guidance.