Upstream - The Newsletter of Incentive FM Group

Flexible Working Environment

Recent statistics suggest that nearly 9 million full-time workers would like to work “flexibly”. So, the Government has brought in Flexible Working Regulations 2014, which came into force on 30 June 2014.

Up until then, only employees who had children aged below 17, or 18 if disabled, and those responsible for elderly care were able to ask for flexible working, as long as they had completed 26 weeks of service. (i.e. a change to working hours or location, or a mixture of the two).

More importantly, employees had an automatic right to ask for flexible working, but not an automatic right to have the request granted. An employer could only have refused the request under eight specific business reasons. The procedure was a very structured, legal and time-bound. Once accepted, a permanent change was made to terms and conditions, but if declined the employee had the right to appeal.

From 30 June 2014, the basic right to request is unchanged; employees can make up to one written request every year, but the method for dealing with the request will be more ‘relaxed’. The response must be reasonable and completed from start to finish, including appeal, within three months. Again, the employer can refuse on any of the eight business grounds. If the employee is unhappy with the outcome, they will have the option to go to Tribunal, where the Judge cannot normally investigate the rights and wrongs of the refusal, only whether the procedure has been properly followed. If the Tribunal finds the employer has failed to meet the terms, the maximum compensation is eight weeks' pay (currently capped at £464 per week).

Changes in these regulations have prompted a review of the flexible working policy in order to ensure employees are aware of this right and how to progress any submissions.

What this means is that consideration has to be given as to what happens if more than one member of a team asks for flexible working at the same time – how would you decide on the outcome? Any such factors need to be fair, clear and not considered to be prejudiced in any way. This will not always be easy, depending on the organisational needs and culture.

We believe we have the right culture and environment where employees can be sure that any requests will be handled fairly, and will not impact on future opportunities.