How Will Changes to Flexible Working Affect Your Business?
In November 2012, the Government published its consultation on modern workplaces and said that from 2014 it would extend the right to request flexible working to all employees. This will have a huge impact on some businesses; do you know how it will affect yours? Do you know how to implement the changes so that you stay on the right side of the law?
Flexible working is seen as a benefit to many people, allowing them to achieve a better work-life balance. For many, this actually makes them more productive at work. Many small businesses have allowed flexible working as it helps them recruit good staff. However, for some businesses, the changes could have different effects. If you don’t fully understand how to use flexible working, your business or your employees could suffer.
The right to request flexible working is currently restricted to parents of children under the age of 17 and carers. This will be extended to all employees from 30 June 2014. It will:
- remove the requirement for the employee to be a carer to qualify for the right to make a request
- place a duty on employers to deal with requests in a reasonable manner
- require you to notify the employee of your decision within three months of the application, or longer if this is agreed with the employee.
The provisions that implement the new rights will get rid of the statutory procedure for considering flexible working requests and replace this with a requirement to “deal with the application in a reasonable manner.”
The 26 week qualifying period for employees to make a request for flexible working will be retained and an employee can still only make one flexible working request in any 12 month period.
Acas has published some guidelines which say that as an employer, you should do the following:
- Arrange to talk to your employee as soon as possible after receiving his or her written request (unless the intention is to approve the request)
- Allow your employee to be accompanied by a work colleague at any discussion
- Discuss you employee’s request with him or her, where possible in private
- Consider requests “carefully looking at the benefits of the requested changes in working conditions for the employee and the business and weighing these against any adverse business impact of implementing the changes.”
- Inform your employee of the decision, in writing as soon as possible
- If your employee’s request is granted, or granted with modifications, discuss with them how and when the changes might best be implemented
- If your employee’s request is rejected, ensure that the rejection is for one of the business reasons permitted by legislation and allow the employee to appeal it
- Consider and decide on all requests, including any appeals, within a period of three months from initial receipt, unless an extension is agreed with you employee.
This means that you can’t just deny a request for flexible working because you don’t understand it, or think it will have a negative impact on your business! Acas has produced a guide that provides good practice advice for employers, which you can download by clicking here.