Every employee in the UK has the statutory right to ask to work flexibly after 26 weeks of employment. The right to make a statutory request can only be made once in any 12 month period. This post looks at the most important factors to take into account before and during a formal application to work flexibly.
What is Flexible Working?
Flexible working arrangements alter an employees’ standard working pattern to better suit their needs. This could be because employees have childcare or dependant responsibilities or other commitments outside of work that require them to have some flexibility in their working hours.
The most common flexible working arrangements include employees working term time only, working part time hours, working from home, and starting or finishing work either earlier or later to suit their needs. The possibilities are wide-ranging.
What information should you include in your request for Flexible Working?
There is certain information that employees must include in any request to work flexibly. There is also certain information that we would advise employees to include to give the best chance of success. We have listed this information below: –
- Employees must let their employer know that they are making a statutory request and if and when they have made any previous statutory request.
- Employees must date their application and include details of the change requested and when they want that change to come into effect. Employees should be specific here and so we would always advise on including information about why the change is wanted, a summary of current work arrangements, along with a full explanation of the change wanted.
- Employees must set out what effect, if any, they think the change will have on the employer and how in their view, such effect might be dealt with. We would again advise employees to be very specific here and if an employee already thinks there might be a problem or difficulty, try to highlight any quick fixes or solutions to support the application. So, for example, if an employee no longer wanted to finish work at 5pm, and instead wanted to finish at 3pm they may identify a problem that their phone line would be unmanned. To resolve that potential difficulty, the employee may suggest a colleague who could answer the line or set up a diversion.
What happens with your request for Flexible Working?
After receiving an employee’s application, the employer should carefully consider it. If they are completely happy to change the working pattern, they can just write to the employee to confirm that. However, in some cases they will want to explore the request in more detail before making any decision. In cases where they can’t just agree, they should invite the employee to a meeting to discuss the application in greater detail. Employees are entitled to be accompanied at the meeting by a work colleague.
What will the employer consider when dealing with a request for Flexible Working?
When considering the application an employer should look at the benefits of the change to the employee, and the assess that against any impact to the business. Where possible, requests should be accepted, and the acceptance should be communicated in writing to the employee.
If a request cannot be accepted, then it is important that the employer explains on what basis. It is important to note that employers can only reject an application for a limited number of business reasons including:
- the burden of additional costs,
- detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand,
- inability to re-organise work among existing staff;
- inability to recruit additional staff,
- detrimental impact on quality,
- detrimental impact on performance,
- insufficiency of work during the periods the employee proposes to work,
- planned structural changes,
Knowing on what grounds the application could be rejected is important and we always advise our employee clients to try and be realistic in their applications. If you already know when making a request that there is likely to be a difficulty for the employer, come up with ideas to resolve that difficulty in advance. A proactive and forward-thinking approach is likely to put you in a better position to have your request granted.
What if a request for Flexible Working is rejected?
If a request is rejected, the employee should be notified in writing and given an opportunity to appeal. The entire flexible working application and appeal process should all be handled in a timely fashion and should not take longer than three months in total from the date of receipt of the original application (unless the parties agree a longer period).
HELP FROM LINCSLAW
If you are considering an application for flexible working, or have had a request unreasonably refused, we want to help. Please feel free to call on 01522 440512 for a free initial chat or visit the website of LincsLaw Solicitors on www.lincslaw.co.uk for more information about the services provided.
Director, Specialist Employment Law Solicitor