From 30 June 2014, all employees, not just parents and carers, will have the legal right to make a “statutory application” for flexible working.
All requests must be dealt with in a “reasonable” manner, which means considering and assessing the advantages and disadvantages of every request; holding a meeting with the employee to discuss the request and offering an appeals process if the request is refused.
There is a simple 4 step process for employees, as follows:
- The employee writes to the employer.
- The employer considers the request and makes a decision within 3 months – or longer if agreed with the employee.
- If the employer agrees to the request, they must change the terms and conditions (Ts and Cs) in the employee’s contract.
- If the employer disagrees, they must write to the employee giving the business reasons for the refusal. The employee may be able to complain to an employment tribunal.
Frequently asked questions
1. What does flexible working mean?
Flexible working means a permanent contractual change which can include:
- Job sharing
- Working from home
- Part time working
- Compressed hours
- Annualised hours
- Staggered hours
- Phased retirement
- An employee could request that they work 7am-5pm (9 hours with lunch), Monday to Thursday, and then 9am-12pm on a Friday (compressed hours).
- An employee could request that they reduce their hours from 40 per week, to 30 per week (part time).
- An employee could request that on Mondays they work from home, and work in the office for the rest of the week (working from home).
2. Who can make a statutory application for flexible working?
Any employee who has worked for the company for more than 26 weeks (6 months) is eligible to make a statutory application for flexible working.
3. Are there specific reasons they have to use to make an application?
No, an employee could make the request simply because they wish to improve their work life balance, engage in a hobby or spend more time with loved ones, in fact, for any reason at all!
4. Do we have to honour every request?
No. Requests can be rejected, providing there is a good reason. There are seven statutory ‘reasons for rejecting’ an application for flexible working:
- 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.
- Flexible working will affect quality and performance.
- The business won’t be able to meet customer demand.
- There’s a lack of work to do during the proposed working times.
- The business is planning changes to the workforce.
5. How long should we take to consider the request?
The decision should be made within 3 months of the request, unless agreed with the employee that it may take longer.
6. Should parental/carer requests come first?
No. Applications must be considered on a first come, first served basis, and only be rejected for one of the seven reasons for rejecting.
7. What if there is more than one request at the same time?
If it is not possible to consider the requests in order, perhaps because they have been received at the same time, you should agree with the employees who have requested flexible working to consider some form of random selection to decide. It would be good practice for this dispute resolution information to be included in your Flexible Working Policy.
8. What will happen if we reject the request?
Employees no longer have a statutory right to an appeal, however, offering an appeals process is considered best practice.
9. How many flexible applications can an employee make?
An employee may make one statutory request per 12 month period.
10. Can they take us to a tribunal for rejecting their request?
Employees may complain to an employment tribunal within 3 months of the rejected application but only for the following reasons:
- The employer didn’t handle the request in a ‘reasonable manner’.
- The employer wrongly treated the employee’s application as withdrawn.
- The employer dismissed or treated an employee poorly because of their flexible working request, e.g. refused a promotion or pay rise.
- The employer rejected an application based on incorrect facts.
11. What’s the next step if we agree to flexible working?
You should write to the employee with a statement of the agreed changes and a start date for the flexible working.
12. Is it temporary?
No, the flexible working would be a contractual change which includes the new Ts and Cs . It should be done no later than 28 days after the request is approved.
13. What if the employee wants to change again?
As it is a contractual change, requesting to “go back” to the original Ts and Cs would be at the employers’ discretion.