Within your business, you are obliged to take eligible employees’ requests for flexible working arrangements seriously.
It is your right as an employer to determine whether a flexible working request will be detrimental to delivering your business services / products to your clients and you are able to reject requests for flexible working as long as you comply with the regulations. You could also consider a trial period, but once agreed any variation to working conditions are permanent and become contractual.
You may ask who is eligible for flexible working. By law, there are three groups of eligible employees as follows:
- Employees who care for a child aged 16 or under
- Employees who care for, a disabled child under 18
- Employees with elder care responsibilities
However, employees must also qualify for flexible working by:
- Having been employed by the business for at least 26 weeks (continuous service)
- Be the parent or guardian of a child as defined above or be married/a partner of the parent as defined above.
- If the request is linked care for an adult, the employee has to be a relative of the adult in question.
- Not having made a request for flexible working within the last year.
If all of the above is in order then your employee making the request should submit a formal ‘request form’ in line with the Company’s policy. The onus is on the employee making the request to detail the nature of the flexible working request i.e. to work from home, to change hours, to job share etc. together with mitigating actions required to ensure minimal disruption to the business.
The employer must consider and respond to applications within 28 of receipt and either hold a meeting to discuss any modifications to the application / alternative options or accept the request in writing. If a meeting is required to discuss the application, a mutually convenient appointment should be made and a decision given within a fortnight of the meeting. Time periods are flexible subject to agreement by both yourself and your employee. It is also possible to agree a flexible working arrangement on a trial basis (normally up to three months), and if the arrangement is not working within that time, the trial can be terminated, again complying with the regulations.
Any changes to employment patterns agreed must be documented and no further requests for varying work arrangements can be made for at least a year after the initial application, regardless of whether you, the employer, accepted or rejected their first request.
As an employer, if the flexible working request is proven to not work for your business (for example it may have an unacceptable burden of additional cost or require a structural change) then you are at liberty to refuse the request, but you must document the business reasons for this.
Employees are able to appeal against a decision of refusal but must do this within 14 days of the date of decision.
Flexible working can work in many circumstances, but sometimes it just doesn’t do the business justice to accept an application.
While the law allows requests from three specific groups, many businesses, both large and small have allowed all employees the right to request flexible working. By adopting a flexible approach for all workers, many businesses benefit from longer operational hours of business, multi-skilled employees covering different shifts and greater holiday cover.
For further information on understanding flexible working, developing policies and procedures and protecting your business when receiving a formal request, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01923 504100.