Andy Sumner, Monster UK & Ireland MD advises employers on handling flexible working requests
Under the new regulations, employers are simply required to consider all requests and provide a decision within three months, unless an extension of time is agreed upon by both the employer and the employee. While a lot of the red tape has been cut away, employers should still take it upon themselves to have a clear policy in place, especially including parameters considered when granting flexible working requests, to avoid any confusion amongst employees or retribution for denied requests in the form of discrimination claims, etc.
To avoid a constant flow of requests from employees after they join your company, clearly outline any provisions for flexible working in your job postings and recruitment process. In addition to getting employees to start with their desired working habits from the very beginning, reducing complications in the long run, it will also help differentiate your organisation from the high number that make no mention of flexible working in their job adverts.
Familiarise yourself with the details of the regulation so that you’re ready to hit the ground running when they come into effect on 30th June. Review your existing flexible working policies and alter them as necessary to be certain they comply with the new rules.
Consider consulting your employees, and perhaps their representatives, when formulating your new flexible working policy – this will make accommodating requests easier and reduce the chance of any potential disagreements in the future.
Agree on an order process for reviewing requests. Especially in the beginning of these new regulations, employers may receive multiple requests at the same time having a clear process in place for dealing with these requests in an orderly fashion will reduce claims of unfairness – perhaps consider setting up a draw for dealing with requests submitted at the same time, or prioritise requests that fulfil more of the parameters in your organisation’s policy.
As legally required, consider each request carefully and with due attention, in a reasonable manner. From the outset of a request, immediately make an appointment with the employee to meet and consider his or her request within the next three months, as stipulated in the new regulation.
· Keep in mind the eight specified business grounds under which employers will now be allowed to reject flexible working requests:
o additional costs
o an effect on the ability to meet customer demand
o inability to reorganise work among existing staff
o inability to recruit new staff
o a detrimental impact on quality
o a detrimental impact on performance
o insufficiency of work during period of work proposed by the employee
o planned structural changes
· Agree upon a review date with employees granted flexible working to assess how it has worked out, and whether any changes are needed or wanted from either party.
· Always keep documentation of the entire decision process to have evidence in the case of any discrimination claims – this will also keep the process more transparent and accountable for all.