It’s September and the school year is upon us once again.
Your employee comes to you and asks if they can start working flexible hours to balance their childcare. What are they entitled to? What are your responsibilities? What do you need to do?
Read on. HR Solutions will tell you all that you need to know…
What is Flexible Working?
Flexible working is defined as:
- A change to the amount of hours an employee works
- A change to the time of hours worked, such as a later start or an earlier finish
- Working from a different location
In 2014 the law on flexible working changed, and now any employee who has been in their position for 26 weeks is able to make a flexible working request. Working from home, term-time hours, job-sharing and most other working patterns are covered by flexible working.
How Should an Employee make a Flexible Working Request?
An employee must make a clearly dated request for flexible working in writing. This request must state how the employee wishes to change their working arrangements, how they think it could affect the business, and the date that they would like the change to come into effect. They must state whether they have made a previous request for flexible working and the date on which they did so, and they must also state if they are making their request in relation to the Equality Act 2010.
An employee can only make one flexible working request in any 12 month period.
How Do I Manage a Flexible Working Request?
Should you receive a flexible working request it is best practice to arrange a meeting with your employee as soon as possible. This provides you with an opportunity to find out why your employee wants to change their working pattern (although they do not have to say) and allows you to explore any possible compromise arrangements.
If you accept the request (or an altered version of the original request) it will permanently change your employee’s contract of employment.
You will need to consider all flexible working requests in a reasonable manner, and can only refuse a request if there is a business reason for doing so. This reason must be one of the following:
- The burden of additional costs
- An inability to reorganise work amongst existing staff
- An inability to recruit additional staff
- A detrimental impact on quality
- A detrimental impact on performance
- Detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand
- Insufficient work for the periods the employee proposes to work
- A planned structural changes to the business
You are legally obliged to give your employee a decision in writing within three months, but it is good practice to respond to them as soon as possible.
Appealing the Decision
Should your employee be unhappy with your decision they can appeal. This is no longer a statutory right, but doing so does help to demonstrate that you are acting reasonably should the matter be taken any further. The employee must follow your company’s procedures for solving a workplace dispute to appeal your decision.
If your employee feels that you have not responded to their request reasonably then they can make a claim to an Employment Tribunal.
Flexible working is not something to fear as an employer as long as you give the request fair consideration. Allowing employees to re-balance their working arrangements can increase productivity and retention, which can only be good for business.