Unless you have changed your model to working from home, then flexible working requests are likely to become more commonplace if you are asking staff to return to work in the office. Employees with more than 26 weeks’ service have the right to request flexible working. Flexible working could mean flexible start and finish times or working partly or fully from home. We’ve summarised some of the key things you need to know about flexible working requests and what you should do to manage these properly.
Who can make a flexible working request?
Any employee can make a statutory flexible working request as long as they have 26 weeks’ service and they can only make one request in any 12 month period. This right to request is contained in the Flexible Working Regulations 2014 and an employer must deal with these requests in a “reasonable manner”. It’s vital that managing flexible working requests is done properly and in line with employment law guidance.
There is also the option for employees to make non-statutory flexible working requests if they don’t fit in with the statutory criteria. It’s still advisable to respond to these requests in writing as employees also have the protection of discrimination legislation.
What can employees request?
Flexible working requests must be in writing – so you can understand what is being requested – and can include the idea of working different or fewer hours, working remotely some of the time, or working remotely full-time. It could be quite a specific change being requested, e.g. someone who works a set amount of hours five days per week, compressing these into two or three full working days.
What process should employers follow?
It’s important to follow a formal procedure in dealing with any statutory flexible working requests you receive. You have three months to complete the consideration of the request which includes an appeal. Always arrange to meet with the employee, have a note taker present and offer the employee the right to bring a work colleague or trade union representative.
How do I reach a decision on a flexible working request?
During the formal procedure you should always discuss the viability of the request and the impact it will have the business, both positively and negatively. It is vital that you do not judge the employee for the reason behind their request, consider whether a trial period would be appropriate and, if it is, set a review date on which the changes can be reviewed and made permanent or the request is rejected. If you are rejecting the request you must include the reasons why, and base it on at least one of the following grounds:
- The burden of additional costs
- An inability to reorganise work amongst existing staff
- An inability to recruit additional staff
- A detrimental impact of quality of output
- A detrimental impact on performance
- A detrimental effect on ability to meet the demands of customers
- Insufficient workload for the times the employee has proposed to work
- Planned structural changes to the business
Do I have a choice if someone in the team is already working flexibly?
It is important to review and consider each request independently from others and previous decisions on requests. Just because you have agreed for one person to finish early on a Friday, it doesn’t mean you have to grant that for everyone if it will have a detrimental impact on your business. It’s important to give each request serious consideration.
If you have any queries on managing flexible working requests, then get in touch with our team.