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Flexible Working – Did You Know?

Some employers may find that they start to receive an increase in flexible working requests over the coming months. This could be due to factors such as employees re-evaluating their work life balance in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, employees returning to work in some sectors or a change in personal circumstances.
Below we take a look at some flexible working facts it will be useful for employers to be aware of if they receive a flexible working request.

Flexible Working Facts

• Employees who have at least 26 weeks continuous service have a statutory right to make a flexible working request if they wish, although only one statutory flexible working request can be made in any 12 month period. Time is counted from the date on which the employee makes their first request.

• A flexible working request can be made for any reason. Sometimes they are made to enable an employee to better balance work and family commitments or to enable them to pursue an interest.

• Flexible working requests can be for all sorts of changes to working patterns such as a reduction in hours, a change to the times or days of work or to work from home.

• Flexible working requests must be considered and dealt with promptly and in a ‘reasonable manner’ – no request should be dismissed without proper consideration or taking the necessary steps. In broad outline, this will usually involve formally meeting with the employee, investigating whether the request can be accommodated and giving a written outcome with a right of appeal. It is worth bearing in mind that in some circumstances, such as where the organisation is operating remotely, it may be necessary to consider alternatives to an ‘in-person’ flexible working meeting, such as using an online video conferencing platform.

• Whilst many employers are aware that flexible working requests can be refused, a fact that often takes them by surprise is that flexible working requests can only be refused on set statutory grounds and only then if they apply in the employer’s particular circumstances. These grounds are the burden of additional costs, detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demands or detrimental impact on quality or performance, inability to re-organise work among existing staff or inability to recruit additional staff, insufficiency of work during the periods the employee proposes to work or planned structural changes. Even if an employer considers that one or more of these grounds apply, they should still seek advice on the facts of their case before refusing a flexible working request as employees can complain to an employment tribunal about how they and/or their request has been treated.

• If a flexible working request is agreed it will be a change to the employee’s contract so it is important to ensure that it is appropriately documented.

If you receive a flexible working request, you should contact Kingfisher Professional Services Ltd for detailed advice on the process to follow. We can also assist you with letters, other documentation and guidance you may need when dealing with this situation.

If you have an employment law matter you would like assistance with, please do not hesitate to contact Kingfisher Professional Services Ltd as we are happy to help.