Flexible working is set to be implemented on Monday 30th June in what promises to be the most radical shake up of worker rights in years. New rules coming into force state that all employees with 26 weeks or more service a year will be able to request flexible working, albeit at their employerís discretion. However, employers will have to address every request in a ìreasonable mannerî.
Essentially a variation on your existing working routine, examples of flexible working include working from home, part-time work, flexi-time and job sharing.
The right is being extended to all employees and the government belief is that this measure will particularly benefit old people. Although there is certainly truth in this, flexible working, if embraced, could aid people of all ages manage their time more effectively whilst boosting productivity of the business as a whole.
This perspective is adopted by the majority of ministers from whom the general consensus is that flexible working aids people balance their job with their home responsibilities, keeping people in long term employment and supporting companies in keeping tried and trusted staff on the roster.
Nick Clegg said: ìModern businesses know that flexible working boosts productivity and staff morale, and helps them keep their top talent so that they can grow. It’s about time we brought working practices bang up to date with the needs and choices of our modern families.î
Through this measure, the government has targeted modernising working practices for families too. In a society where women are seeking to shatter the glass ceiling which looms over most industries, flexible hours are key to new mothers seamlessly resuming their careers from where they left off.
Clegg continues: ìToday is a crucial milestone in how we can help people balance their family life with work and caring responsibilities, and from next year shared parental leave will allow mums and dads to be able to choose how they care for their new-born in those first precious months.î
Employers retain right to refuse
Although employers are obligated to respond to staff requests in a ëreasonable mannerí, there is no condition which compels them to agree. They must notify staff within three months of your request being processed. Following an initial meeting discussing an employeeís reasons for requesting flexible hours, communication of whether the request has been agreed to should swiftly follow. An employer must provide clear, business-related reasons for why any application has been denied. These reasons are, according to https://www.gov.uk/flexible-working/after-the-application:
1. extra costs which will damage the business
2. the work canít be reorganised among other staff
3. people canít be recruited to do the work
4. flexible working will affect quality and performance
5. the business wonít be able to meet customer demand
6. thereís a lack of work to do during the proposed working times
7. the business is planning changes to the workforce
It is worth noting that employers are no longer required to give priority to carers or parents. No value judgements are required from employers regarding which peoplesí case are most deserving of recognition. Judgements should essentially be made purely on how the case in question would affect the business. If an employee believes their employer has failed to be objective, he/she could file a claim for indirect discrimination.
Advisory, conciliation and arbitration service (Acas) have released a code of practice to help employers understand the process involved with accepting and refusing flexible working requests.
Brendan Barber, chairman of Acas, said: ìOur experience from working with thousands of employers is that flexible working is both good for business and employees. The new code will help employers handle flexible working requests in a reasonable manner and fit their specific circumstances.”
The Trade Union Congress (TUC) general secretary, Frances OíGrady, posited:
“It’s not just parents and carers who can benefit from flexible working. This sensible and modern approach to work is something that can improve the lives of everyone.
“Now, thanks to this long overdue change in the law, employees of all ages will be able to ask their boss to alter the way they work, regardless of whether they have dependents or caring responsibilities.
“If they have an employer who gets why flexible working makes sense, workers who want to take time out to train, volunteer in a local community project, or simply avoid travelling at rush hour will now be able to transform their lives.
“But those with old-fashioned bosses who expect all staff to stick to the same rigid hours day in day out and always be in the office won’t be so lucky. Employers will still find it all too easy to block any requests for greater flexibility.
Unfortunately the right to request is only the right to ask nicely. There is nothing to stop employers saying no.”
Although the ball remains in the employers court regarding authorisation, thereís no doubt that the introduction of flexible hours is the most significant reform to workerís rights for a long, long time.