Flexible Working: Right to Request from 30 June 2014
Following the Government’s consultation on modern workplaces the right to request flexible working has been extended to all employees.
Whereas previously only parents of children under 16; disabled children under 18, or certain carers had the right to request flexible working, as of 30th June 2014, all employees with at least 26 weeks service can make a request.
Whilst employers are under no obligation to grant an employee’s request, which must be made in writing and no more often than once in a 12 month period, they must provide a response within three months and have a sound business reason for rejecting it if they choose to do so.
Although it is hoped that these changes will broaden the use of flexi-time, home working, job-sharing and part-time work for all, flexible working may have its downsides. Concerns have been raised that business may struggle to adapt to this change and cope with a sudden influx of applications; increased administration and office politics. Denying a request may lead to unwelcome dynamics within the workforce and issues of inequality or favouritism.
The statutory “right to request” scheme has been amended in an effort to be less prescriptive than the original scheme and is now supported by an ACAS Code of Practice. However, this offers employers little practical guidance to help make their decision. For example if one employee seeks flexible working to care for their child and another to go horse riding everyday, which should the employer grant? Employers may find it difficult therefore to judge all requests equally and become exposed to claims of discrimination or unfair treatment. Accordingly, it will be essential for employers to be careful when considering how to deal with requests for flexible working.