Posted 25 June 2014 | 0 Comments

From the 30th June 2014, changes to the law will allow all eligible employees the right to request flexible working.

Previously, only eligible carers and employees with children under the age of 17 (or 18 if disabled) had the right to make a request but, from June 30th onward, that right will be extended to any employee with at least 26 weeks’ continuous service.

Flexible working can be more than just a change to standard working hours. A request could be for the option to work from home, a change contract type (temp, perm etc.), the use of flexitime, job sharing, term time working and more.

A right of request does not mean a right to insist.

Let’s not confuse things here, a change in the law doesn’t mean employees are automatically given the green light to demand flexible working without the possibility of a refusal. Employers are still in a position to decline a request if it is deemed to be unreasonable, but it must be for sound business reasons. (A list of which can be found on the ACAS website)

Employees are entitled to make one request in any 12 month period, and must receive a response within three months. For the savvy employee, their written application will include solid ‘win win’ reasons to support their request for flexibility. Ideally, they should be able to explain how the change would be beneficial for the business and should certainly prove that it would not be detrimental.

Note: A request for homeworking probably won’t be approved if you’re a surgeon.

So, what does this mean for the parents and carers who fear they are no longer top priority for flexibility? John Wastnage, Head of Employment for the British Chambers of Commerce, confirmed that this is a subject he has frequently been asked to address since the changes were proposed.

“One of the main questions we’re getting from our members is: will it become illegal for me to give priority to people who are parents or carers?”

The answer is yes. But it would be wrong to insist this will have negative effects on the employees themselves. A request from a parent or carer will still be as legitimate (or not depending on the reasons) as it was previously. The introduction of flexible working applications for all is more likely to become an increased burden for employers who are obliged to consider and respond to every one.

The changes may pose a more significant problem for small business owners who won’t have the resources to manage the additional administration or facilitate alterations to business structure. A 2012 CIPD survey found that 96% of businesses were already offering flexible working but those who were least likely to provide this option were, for the most part, small businesses. The effects of the changes remain to be seen.

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