Employers are being encouraged to embrace the right to request flexible working hours.
The end of June marked the first anniversary since the right to request flexible working was extended to any employee with 26 weeks continuous service regardless of caring responsibilities. An employee can bring one flexible working request within a 12 month period.
It coincides with the start of a sporting summer that includes Wimbledon, the Ashes, the Open Golf Championship, the Tour de France and the World Athletics Championships – none of them entirely compatible with the traditional 9 to 5, Monday to Friday working routine.
But what are the real advantages of flexible work schedule for employees? Surveys and research have found that flexibility results in reduced absenteeism and tardiness and increases the ability to recruit outstanding employees.
Practically, when an employer receives a request that request should be discussed with the employee as soon as possible, potentially accompanied by a work colleague or a trade union representative if they wish.
The request should be considered objectively and dealt with in a “reasonable” manner by the employer, carefully balancing the benefits of the requested changes in working conditions for the employee and the business against the business rationale and any adverse effects the changes may have on the business, including the cost and logistical implications of granting the request.
The employer must notify the employee of the decision, including the decision on any appeal, within three months from the request being made by the employee.
Employers are permitted to reject a request, but only for one of eight business reasons
- An effect on the ability to meet customer demand
- An inability to re-organise work among existing staff
- An inability to recruit new staff
- A detrimental impact on quality
- A detrimental impact on performance
- Insufficiency of work during the period of work proposed by the employee
- An effect on planned structural changes to the business
An explanation of these reasons, including how they apply, must be given to the employee.
There are other matters to consider and care must be taken not to discriminate inadvertently against employees because of their protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010.