We previously wrote about the new rules which came into effect on 30th June 2014 regarding the ability of all employees with 26 week’s service to request flexible working. So two months in has this change resulted in a flood of new requests?
Certainly the evidence we have seen from our clients says no there has been no real increase in requests as of yet. ACAS have issued a new Code of Practice and guidance on the new rights. The ACAS Code of Practice will be taken into consideration by employment tribunals when appropriate so employers would be well advised to get up to speed with all the changes in flexible working and how it applies in practice. Employers may also find the guidance useful to understand their obligations in this area.
The other issue that employers are concerned about is how they balance conflicting requests from employees. It is important that all requests are considered fairly and on their own merit. A question we are frequently asked is what to do if an employee makes a request later but has a more pressing need for the flexibility. It should be remembered that unless a trial or shorter period is agreed, a flexible working request that is granted becomes permanent. Any subsequent requests by other employees regardless of their merit can only be considered at that point on the facts. If it cannot be accommodated because other staff are working flexibly then this could fall within one of the permitted grounds for declining a request. An employee gets the right of appeal but remember an employee can only make one request per 12 month period so employers will not end up in a vicious cycle of monthly requests from one employee.
Employers should review their handbook or policy in this area to ensure that the eligibility criteria are updated and any of the old timescales for the procedure that were so rigid are removed.
23rd September 2014