Following our successful Employer Essentials Seminar, we thought we’d cover some frequently asked questions surrounding the topic.
What is the “right to request flexible working”?
Flexible working is a way of working that suits an employee’s needs, e.g. being able to work certain hours or work from home. Anyone can ask their employer to work flexibly, however eligible employees have a legal right to apply for the “statutory right to request flexible working”.
Which employees are eligible?
The employee must have 26 weeks’ continuous service with the employer at the date of the application and be either a parent, adoptive parent, foster parent, guardian or special guardian of a child under the age of 17 (18 in the case of a disabled child), or the spouse, civil partner or live-in partner of such a person, that have responsibility for the child. The right is also available to employees who care for an adult aged 18 or over who is their spouse, civil partner or live-in partner, a relative, or someone living at the same address as the employee. The purpose of the request is to enable the employee to care for a dependant.
Do employees have the automatic right to change to a flexible working pattern?
No. The right is a right to request a flexible pattern of work, as opposed to a right to work flexibly, as such an employer doesn’t have to agree to the request. You are, however, duty bound to follow a set procedure and timetable in relation to a request, and to give specific business reasons for doing so, if you are unable to accommodate the employee’s request for flexible working.
What is the procedure for an employer to follow?
Within 28 days of receiving an application for flexible working, you must either accept the application and notify the employee accordingly in writing, or arrange a meeting to discuss the application and how it might best be accommodated or to consider alternative options. Within 14 days of this meeting, you must write to the employee either agreeing to the application and specifying the contract variation agreed and the start date on which it is to take effect, or refusing the application, stating which of the specified grounds for refusal it considers to be applicable and explaining why those grounds apply in relation to the application.
Can we use a trial period to see if the proposed flexible working arrangement would work?
Yes, you can. Before the start of the trial however, both you and your employee must agree in writing to extend the statutory time limit for reaching a final decision under the flexible working procedure, agree the new working pattern and clarify that it is only a temporary variation to the terms of the employee’s contract.
In which circumstances can an employer refuse a request?
A refusal must be based on one or more specific grounds, such as additional costs; a detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand; an inability to reorganise work among existing staff or recruit additional staff; a detrimental impact on quality or performance; insufficiency of work during the periods the employee proposes to work; and planned structural changes.
Please note that our “Frequently Asked Questions” cover topic enquiries from our Employer Essentials Seminar and only touches on some of your obligations, and should only act as a guide. For further information on Flexible Working practices visit ACAS: www.acas.org.uk.