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Friday, 24 October 2014

Friday Guest Blog: Flexible Working

By Aarti Bedi of Colemans-ctts LLP

On 30th June 2014, the rules on flexible working changed and the right to request flexible working was widened. Research by Sage UK has shown that 10 per cent of small businesses are completely unaware of the new rules, while a third of small businesses are still not complying with the changes. 

What is flexible working?

It is a change to an employee’s working pattern and can take various guises such as part time working, shift work, home working, job sharing to name a few.

Who can apply?

As of 30th June 2014 the right to request flexible working has now been extended to all employees with at least 26 weeks' continuous service, previously this right was reserved for only those with caring responsibilities.

How to deal with requests?

Employers must deal with all requests received in a “reasonable manner”. This means holding a meeting to discussing employees requests and communicating your decision in writing to them within a reasonable time and at least within a three-month period.

Can I refuse a flexible working request?

Yes, whilst an employer must consider each request carefully there are eight legitimate business grounds for refusing a request and they are:

1. The additional costs which would be incurred in granting the request would cause an unacceptable burden on the business;
•    For instance, where the company would have to pay for equipment to enable the employee to work from home.

2. The business is unable to distribute the work amongst existing staff;
•    For example, if an employee has a specific skill set, job, or ability, the employer would need to consider how easy or difficult it would be to redistribute the workload. Employers should consider whether retraining would equip another employee.

3. Not able to recruit additional staff to cover the work;
•    if an employee who worked unsociable hours, recruiting another staff member to do these hours might be extremely difficult.

4. The employer considers the change would cause a detrimental effect on quality of business;

5. The employer considers the change would have a detrimental effect on being able to meet customer demands;
•    High pressure jobs sometimes come with high pressure time constraints, however, an employer should not refuse a request outright for this reason. A trial period can be considered as a way to see whether the flexible working arrangement the employee wants can work.

6. Detrimental impact on performance;
•    When considering performance, employers will need to consider the impact on performance of not only the singular employee, but the team and the company.

7. Insufficient work for the employee to carry out during the hours the employee has proposed to work;
•    Some employers have periods of ‘peak’ demand. If the employee is suggesting they work quiet hours only then the request can be reasonably rejected.

8. Planned structural changes mean that the flexible working changes would not fit.
•    If the operating hours of the company are changing making the change in shift patterns not relevant to the business then the request can be rejected on those grounds.

In some cases an employer may not feel that they are able to accept a request, but may be in a position to offer something slightly different to what was originally requested. If refusing a flexible working request it is advisable to inform the employee of their right to appeal the decision. The process including appeal should be completed within the three-month period.

If you are worried about the changes in the law in 2014 or any other employment matter, call Aarti on 0161 876 2502. Email aarti.bedi@colemans-ctts.co.uk or visit www.colemans-ctts.co.uk

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