As of 30 June 2014 the right to request flexible working arrangements was extended to all employees who have completed 26 weeks’ qualifying service. The new law permits employees to request a change in working hours regardless of the reason, following this right previously only having been afforded to carers and those with children under 17, or under 18 if the child was disabled. Employees are now able to request a change to their working hours, time or location once every 12 months. Employees wishing to make such requests must follow the statutory procedure, involving a written request detailing the change in work pattern, when it will commence and the impact of the same upon their employer.
Significantly, employers will have to consider such requests objectively and in a ‘reasonable manner’ and accordingly notify employees of their decision within 3 months. An ACAS Code of Practice has been published, in addition to non-statutory guidance on dealing with flexible working requests. Employers are, however, able to reject the requests made on the basis of permitted business grounds laid out in the Employment Rights Act, affording them wide discretion so that it remains to be seen how many requests will be accommodated in practice. Nonetheless, the extension is welcomed and it is hoped that the measure might indeed foster a culture change by allowing scope for greater flexibility and work-life balance, by permitting employees to request working flexible patterns such as work sharing and working from home.
The new law may give rise to an increase in the number of grievances raised by employees and therefore employers must ensure that their flexible working policies are adapted to reflect the extended right and be particularly mindful about managing competing requests in a fair way.
If you are an employer or an employee and require further advice on the implications of the new law please contact our Employment Department on 020 7228 0017.
Trainee Solicitor in the Employment and Commercial team at Hanne & Co