Written by: Cally Worden
The laws around flexible working changed on 30th June 2014. Prior to this date the right to request flexible working hours only applied to parents with children under 17 years of age (18 the child was disabled) and those in certain caring roles. Since the 30th June 2014 any employee who has served a company for more than 26 weeks has the statutory right to request flexible working. Here is your essential guide to the new regulations and what they mean for you.
How to Submit a Request
For a request to be valid it must be made in a certain way – here are the official guidelines:
- The application must be made in writing, specifying the date of the request, and the date from which the applicant would like the changes to take effect
- The request should detail the changes to working conditions that are being sought, and how the applicant perceives that they may affect the business – naturally, a positive slant is suggested here, for example, the changes will result in a cost saving to the company
- Any application must also state whether a previous request has been made, and at what date
- Any request that relates to the Equality Act 2010, perhaps to accommodate the changing needs of a disabled employee, for example, should also clearly state this link
Bear in mind too, that some employers may to open to considering requests from employees who have not yet reached the magic 26 weeks of service. If this applies to you, ask your employer what their position is in this respect.
What Happens Next
The law stipulates that the whole process should be completed within three months of the application being made. Once you have submitted your request it is a good idea to ask for a meeting with your boss or your HR department to discuss it. This is not a legal requirement, but it is good practice and will give you the opportunity to explain your request in more detail, and helps to personalise the issue.
You are not obliged to explain the reasons behind your request, but it can help your employer to understand what is driving your desire for change. Don’t be afraid to ask a colleague or Trade Union representative to accompany you to the meeting if you feel a little overwhelmed by the prospect of going it alone.
Any change to your employment contract will be permanent, so if it is your intention only to seek a temporary change to your working conditions then it is vital you make this clear. A suitable compromise may be easily reached with your employer, and any change to working conditions can be finite if you both agree, with the contract reverting to its former conditions after a specified period of time.
Can my Request be Refused?
Employers are obliged to give reasonable consideration to your request. They do have the right to refuse your request for flexible working, but only if they can present a reasonable business reason for doing so. Any reason given for refusal must come from this following list:
- Additional costs
- Inability to redistribute work among existing staff
- Inability to recruit extra staff required
- A detrimental impact on quality or performance
- A negative effect on ability to respond to customer demand
- Insufficient work for the specific working hours proposed
- A forthcoming planned change to business structure
Can I Appeal Against a Refusal?
Yes. ACAS offers guidelines on the appeals process that is open to you. If, after appeal, your application is still refused you have the option to pursue the matter through your employer’s internal grievance procedure, your trade union, the ACAS Arbitration Scheme, or via employment tribunal.