22nd July, 2014
As of 30 June 2014, the right to request flexible working has been extended to all employees with 26 weeks continuous employment (i.e. it is no longer limited to parents of children under 17, or 18 if disabled and certain carers).
The extended right also comes with a new duty on employers to act reasonably, within a reasonable period. Employees are entitled to make one written request in any 12-month period and the employer must deal with the request within three months.
When dealing with flexible working, an employer can only refuse a request for one of eight business reasons as set out in the legislation, albeit the reasons do appear wide. A tribunal cannot normally investigate the reasons for an employer’s refusal, only whether a proper procedure was followed. In the event of failure to follow a proper procedure, maximum compensation the tribunal can award is eight weeks’ pay (currently capped at £464 per week).
It is important to note that the extended right applies irrespective of the size of the employer. During the consultation for this legislation, there were proposals that micro-businesses (with fewer than 10 employees) should be exempt but this has not been implemented.
In response to the new legislation, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has said “modern businesses know that flexible working boosts productivity and staff morale, and helps them keep their top talent so that they can grow” and that “it’s about time we brought working practices bang up-to-date with the needs, and choices, of our modern families”.
The TUC has also welcomed the extension of rights, but said more needs to be done to ensure that employees’ requests are given fair consideration. This is particularly important given that some businesses which already offer flexible working in their workplace are opposed to the change in legislation due to concerns that employees may begin to ‘abuse their rights’.
For further information and advice in relation to flexible working, please contact Helen Watson on 01244 405565 or send an email to [email protected].
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