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Now, to make you aware of this important change:
What is happening?
30 June saw fundamental changes in the right of employees to request flexible working. The right is being extended to all employees with at least 26 weeks’ service, not just those with caring responsibilities. The good news is that the prescriptive procedure has been abolished and replaced with a duty to consider requests in a reasonable manner and to notify employees in a reasonable time. ACAS have written a Code of Practice to guide employees and employers through the process.
Broadly, the ACAS Code suggests that you meet with the employee to discuss the request (allowing them to be accompanied), consider it carefully and fairly in line with business needs and then inform the employee of your decision in writing. If you reject the request, you should allow an appeal.
Can I refuse a request?
The law allows you to reject a flexible working request for one of the following reasons:
(i) The burden of additional cost
(ii) An inability to reorganise work amongst existing staff
(iii) An inability to recruit additional staff
(iv) A detrimental impact on quality
(v) A detrimental impact on performance
(vi) Detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand
(vii) Insufficient work for the periods the employee proposes to work
(viii) A planned structural change to your business
You do need to properly consider the request and whether or not working flexibly can work for your business. Remember that flexibility may be needed to retain a good employee: losing them may have a more detrimental effect on the business than their proposed changes.
It is also important to remember discrimination law: refusing a request to a man wanting to pick up his kids from school when women have had similar requests accepted would be sex discrimination. It is a long held principle that because more women than men have caring responsibilities, any refusal of a flexible working request is indirectly discriminatory unless it is objectively justified. Similarly, refusing a request from a Jew wanting to leave early on a Friday to enable him to observe the Sabbath would be indirectly discriminatory unless it can be justified.
What do I need to do?
If you already have a flexible working policy, it is likely to need updating. If not, having a policy will help you take the correct steps if any of your employees make a request.
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