24 June 2015
Much recent legislation has focused on enhancing a work/life balance for employees. Whilst this is a laudable aim in theory, in practice it has implications that employers must be aware of. Flexible working is one aspect of this and failing to deal with such a request in the appropriate manner could leave your company open to a potential claim.
An employee will be eligible to make a flexible working request if they have 26 weeks of continuous employment, provided they have not made another formal flexible working request in the preceding 12 months (regardless of the outcome). If an eligible employee wishes to make a flexible working request, they should put the details in writing, stating the changes they wish to be made, their reasons for making the request and how they feel that this could be accommodated by the business.
If you, as an employer, are faced with a request for flexible working, do not simply ignore it. Employers have a legal obligation to consider and deal with requests in a reasonable manner. The employee should be invited to a meeting to discuss the details of their request and all potential options as to how the request could be accommodated should be considered. The ACAS code recommends that employees are allowed to be accompanied by a work colleague to any meeting that is held.
Keeping the employee informed is paramount. You should ensure that they are notified of any delay in your decision making process and that they are informed of any impact upon their terms of employment (such as a reduction in salary, pension or bonus) that may arise should their request be implemented. Once a decision has been made, this should be conveyed to the employee as soon as possible.
When reaching a decision, employers must weigh up all benefits of the proposed arrangement against any adverse business impact. They must consider all potential options to accommodate the request, including but not limited to part-time working, job sharing, home working, flexitime, compressed hours, annual hours and term-time working. There are only eight specified grounds which are considered ‘legitimate business reasons’ for rejecting a flexible working request. In addition, there are statutory grounds (such as if the employee is ineligible to make the request) that a request may be rejected.
Knowing how to respond to such a request is vital. At Alpha, we can provide robust advice tailored to your business. If you would like to find out more, please feel free to contact us.
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