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Flexible Working – Has the Landscape Changed? What do you Really Need to Know?

July 15th, 2014

According to CIPD’s recent conference, the new flexible working rules will have very little practical impact. Its real take up remains to be seen. So watch this space.

Change
With effect from 30th June 2014.any employee with at least 26 weeks’ service can request flexible working options. There are in fact very few limits as to what a request could entail. It could include working from home permanently for four days a week. Alternatively a temporary request could be for bereavement or a short period of study.

Tips
For those who are really concerned about the impact of the new flexible working rules it’s worth bearing in mind that:

• Requests can only be made by employees unless they are specifically excluded.

• Any employee making a request must have 26 weeks’ continuous employment at the date of making a request. Further, only one request may be made under the statutory scheme in any 12 month period.

• Any request received is a right to request flexible working and not a right to flexible working.

• When deciding on whether a request should be entertained a costs benefits analysis should be undertaken. The correct processes and procedures should also be deployed in a timely manner.

• If a request is in anyway connected to other matters like the Equality Act 2010 it should be considered carefully and fully before the decision is communicated.

• Employers still have the right to refuse any request on sound business grounds. A refusal can be based on one or more of the following grounds:
o Burden of additional costs
o Detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand
o Inability to reorganise work among existing staff
o Inability to recruit additional staff
o Detrimental impact on quality
o Detrimental impact on performance
o Insufficiency of work during the periods proposed to work
o Planned structural changes

Review
As the flexible working landscape has changed, it is advised that current policies and practices be updated. Any such analysis should take into account the new ACAS Code of Practice and Guide. They are considered to satisfy good HR practice and more importantly, Employment Tribunals are obliged to consider the ACAS Code where there are allegations of wrongdoing.

The failure to adapt will almost certainly cause more damage than good. Apart from being met with a claim, you could end up being publicly ordered to compensate an employee for any unlawful conduct/mistreatment. In our view it’s simply, and commercially speaking, not worth it.

Bhavna Patel is an employment law specialist. If you would like to speak to her about any aspect of this article or any employment related matter please feel free to call her on 01494 773377 or send her an email to bhavna.patel@lennonssolicitors.co.uk.

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