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Lawspeed highlight important changes to flexible working

From 30th June 2014, the right of an employee to request flexible working will be extended.

Prior to this date, the right existed only for parents and carers and was largely used to accommodate childcare arrangements. However, it will now apply to all employees, provided that they have i) been employed continuously by you for at least 26 weeks, ii) have not made a request within the past 12 months and iii) are not agency workers.

Can an employer refuse a flexible working request?

Yes, an employer has an obligation to consider a request, but is not necessarily obliged to agree.

What reasons can an employer use to refuse a request?

The legislation sets out the basis for refusal of a request and these include:

&middot         burden of additional costs

&middot         inability to recruit additional staff or reorganise work among existing staff

&middot         detrimental impact on performance, quality or a business’s ability to meet customer demand

&middot         planned structural changes

&middot         insufficient work available for employee during the periods they propose to work.

If the impact on the business is uncertain, an employer could agree to a trial period, so the actual impact on the business can be properly evaluated.

Given there is an obligation to consider requests, is there a process to follow?

An employer must follow the process set out in the legislation. In summary once a formal written request is made, an employer must hold a meeting with the employee to discuss the request, confirm a decision in writing and where the request is refused, provide the employee with the reason for refusal as well as a right of appeal. All of this should be done within a three month period, unless the employer and employee agree that it can be extended.

Following the proper process is important as a failure to do so can result in a tribunal award of up to 8 weeks’ pay per employee.

For information and advice on flexible working requests, including the basis on which they can be refused, and procedural matters, contact Lawspeed on 01273 236 236. 


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