June 30, 2014, marks the deadline for employees to request more flexible work schedules, thanks to the Government’s Consultation on Modern Workplaces. If you aren’t sure where to begin, here’s a full explanation of the legislation and how employees can make the transition.
Most employers are familiar with handling the needs of employees who need flexible working due to young or disabled children or those who care for adult dependants, but for employers who are not familiar with this policy, it simply means that employees have the right to request changes in their working times, hours, and locations.
If the employer grants the requested changes, these become the conditions of the employee’s employment. Most would think of working part time after a maternity leave, but this is not the only possible scenario. Currently, the process for employees to request such changes is quite rigid, including strict meeting and appeal deadlines.
Primary Changes in the Law
After June 30, every employee will be given the statutory right to seek flexible working conditions with only one requirement: 26 weeks of continuous employment prior to making a request without any previous requests made in the last 52 weeks. The strict routine is being replaced with the more friendly process where employers handle employees’ flexible working requests ‘in a reasonable way’.
That request may seem vague and open to interpretation, but Acas offers a guide entitled “Handling Requests to Work Flexibly in a Reasonable Manner”. This guide will help employment tribunals determine whether employers have been fair and reasonable regarding flexible working requests. In addition, the guide will also help decide when compensation is necessary after improper handling of a request.
Your Flexible Working Request
When an employer receives a request for flexible working, the request should be approved or a meeting should be arranged with the employee to discuss the issue. Employees may bring someone to the meeting. All requests are to be handled without discrimination and should only be rejected for one of these eight original business-related reasons.
These reasons include the following: a previously planned business structure modification, liability of extra expenses, a detrimental effect on quality, performance or capability to meet customer needs, inadequate performance by employee for proposed work times, failure to recruit more workers and reorganize tasks among current employees.
Decisions should be given to employees in writing and if accepted, the employer should confer with employees regarding the implementation of changes. Reasons for the rejection of an employee’s request for flexible working should be given in writing. The employee has the right to appeal and has the right to bring counsel.
The maximum length of time for a request to be processed and determined upon, including an appeal, is three months – unless an extension has been agreed upon by the requesting employee.
Preparing for Next Month’s Changes
Employees with an existing written flexible working policy will find their contract is outdated as of June 30, 2014. Unchanged policies will place the employee contractually bound to the more strict time frames contained within. It is advised to seek an upgrade that will reflect the above mentioned changes on your flexible working policy on or immediately after June 30.
Employees without a policy in writing should implement one. Employers should advise employees on what information is needed and how to file a flexible working request. In addition, employees should be informed regarding timescales and their rights to be accompanied.
A workforce can create a trusting and pleasant environment when employers extend the right to ask for flexible working to all employees. These policy changes will allow employers to maintain staff members experiencing issues due to voluntary work, family commitments and other issues that might lead to job loss.
It is important to distinguish that employees have the right to request flexible working. This legislation does not guarantee flexible working for all employees.