Flexible working rights from day one being proposed

Flexible working rights from day one being proposed

It has been reported that the government has plans to allow flexible working requests from day one of employment, as well as further limiting the reasons that employers can refuse the requests made, and introducing a requirement that employers should offer an alternative where the request made by the employee isn’t suitable.

Currently, flexible working requests can only be made after an employee has at least 26 weeks’ continuous service with an employer and only one request can be made in a 12 month period.

To be a formal flexible working request, an employee's application must:

  • Be in writing.
  • Be dated.
  • State that it is an application made under the statutory procedure.
  • Specify the change that the employee is seeking and when they wish the change to take effect.
  • Explain what effect, if any, the employee thinks the change would have on the employer and how any such effect could be dealt with.
  • State whether the employee has previously made an application to the employer and, if so, when.

Once the formal application is made by an employee, then employers must respond within three months beginning with the date that the request is made, or at a later date which must be agreed by both the employee and company, preferably in writing. The application can only be rejected by the employer on the following grounds:

  • The burden of additional costs.
  • Detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand.
  • Inability to reorganise 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.

The ACAS guidelines provide explanations of each of these, and when they can be relied on, Code of Practice on handling in a reasonable manner requests to work flexibly | Acas.

Employers need to handle flexible working requests correctly with the appropriate procedures, especially when declining a request or there is a risk that an employee will have a claim of indirect discrimination.

When the right is given to employees from day one, employers may find this very frustrating and be reluctant to give much management time to dealing with the request. However, this is not advisable, as the mishandling of the request can give rise to claims, as well as effecting the morale of employees.

The government’s consultation is open for submissions until 1 December. Once the new legislation is in place we will provide an update on the new rules and explain when they come into force. 

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