Since the pandemic, the concept of flexible working has gained significant attention and attraction. Employees are increasingly seeking alternative work arrangements to strike a balance between their personal lives and professional commitments.
This guide aims to provide comprehensive insights and practical advice for employers navigating the process of handling such requests in accordance with UK employment law.
Understanding Flexible Working under UK Law
Flexible working in the UK is governed by the statutory framework provided by the Employment Rights Act 1996 and the Flexible Working Regulations 2014. The legislation allows eligible employees to request flexible working arrangements, and employers have a duty to consider such requests in a reasonable manner.
1. Eligibility Criteria
Under UK law, any employee who has worked continuously for the same employer for at least 26 weeks has the right to request flexible working. However, an employee is only entitled to submit a request once every 12 months. It is crucial to familiarise yourself with the specific eligibility criteria outlined in the legislation to ensure compliance.
2. Types of Flexible Working
Flexible working arrangements encompass various options, including but not limited to part-time work, job sharing, flexitime, compressed hours, and remote work. While employees are entitled to request a specific type of flexible working, employers have the discretion to consider alternatives that may better suit the organisation’s needs.
3. The Flexible Working Request Process
When an employee makes a flexible working request, there is a prescribed process to follow:
a. Request Submission: Employees should submit their requests in writing, clearly stating that they are following stator procedure, and refer to proposed changes to their working pattern, the potential impact this will have upon the business, intended start date and if they have previously made a flexible working request.
b. Review and Meeting: Once employers have received the formal written request, they must show that they have considered it and potentially arrange a meeting, especially if they are considering not agreeing to the request. This meeting provides an opportunity for open dialogue and to address any concerns or queries.
c. Decision and Notification: After the meeting, employers must inform the employee of their decision within three months (including any appeal). If approved, it should include details of the new working arrangements and the start date. If declined, provide a clear rationale based on the permissible grounds for refusal. Employers should be careful that a decision to reject does not unfairly or disproportionately impact upon a certain group (such as working mothers), unless this can be objectively justified.
4. Grounds for Refusal
While employers are encouraged to consider flexible working requests reasonably, there are acceptable grounds for refusal, including:
a. Burden of Additional Costs: If the proposed arrangement would incur excessive financial strain on the business.
b. Detrimental Effect on Performance: If the requested changes would adversely impact productivity or customer service.
c. Inability to Reorganise Work: If it is not feasible to redistribute work among existing staff or recruit additional resources.
d. Inability to Meet Customer Demand: If the proposed changes would result in an inability to meet customer demand or disrupt the business.
e. Insufficient Work Coverage: If the request would create operational difficulties due to insufficient staffing levels during the requested hours.
f. Inability to Recruit Additional Staff: If the business is unable to recruit additional staff to cover for request.
g. A Detrimental Impact on Quality: If the requested changes would adversely impact quality of service.
h. Planned Structural Business Changes: If there are planned changes for the business, which your request would adversely affect.
5. Appeals Process
Employees have the right to appeal a decision if their request is denied. Employers should provide a clear procedure for raising an appeal, designate an appropriate person to handle the appeal, and communicate the expected timeline for resolving the appeal.
Employers should ensure that the flexible working request, including any appeal, is carried out within the expected timeline, unless an extension is explicitly agreed between the employer and the employee.
6. Confidentiality and Data Protection
Throughout the process, employers must handle flexible working requests with confidentiality and in compliance with data protection laws. Ensure that sensitive information is protected and shared only with individuals involved in the decision-making process.
Navigating the realm of flexible working requests under UK employment law requires a solid understanding of the statutory framework and compliance, as well as sensitively dealing with individual employees’ circumstances on a case-by-case basis.
Please do not hesitate to contact the team at [email protected] should you require any further guidance.
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