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What is Flexible Working?

What is Flexible Working?

Our specialist Employment Law team discuss flexible working and the implications it has for Employers.
The recent 2017 Modern Families Index Report has reported that 48% of working parents in the UK believe that their employment negatively impacts upon time spent with their Children. Flexible working is a way to alleviate the negative effects of employment upon family life but the Index reports a low number of flexible working requests from fathers.

What is Flexible Working?

In 2014 the right for employees to request flexible working arrangements under the Employment Rights Act 1996 was updated to modify the procedure for employers considering flexible working requests from employees. Flexible working allows a range of options to be requested and considered including part-time hours, over-time and homeworking in order to allow a work- life balance to be achieved by the employee. It also benefits the employer to allow staff flexibility as it increases motivation in the workplace and allows valuable staff members to be retained.

What are the Implications for Employers?

The first point to note is that a request may be made by any employee who have worked for the employer continuously for 26 weeks or more - not just parents and carers.

Secondly, employers must deal with all requests in a ‘reasonable manner’. This is not explicitly defined within the Act however; an acas code of practice for reviewing requests in a reasonable manner has been published as a helpful guide. This can include entering into dialogue with the employee for considering requests and providing an internal procedure for appeal if the request is denied. If the employer handles the request in an unreasonable manner the matter may be taken to the employment tribunal or referred to the ACAS Arbitration Scheme.

A request may be refused if the employer considers that there is a good business reason set out in the legislation for doing so. The refusal must be communicated in writing to the employee.

Employers should be aware of potential discrimination claim based on gender or disability may also be a basis for challenge. In addition, flexible working requests may be partially granted by employers or alternative flexible working arrangements may also be considered. Regard to alternatives may also demonstrate that the employer has acted in a reasonable manner when considering the request.

The Modern Families Index Report

The report highlighted the practical difficulties which may prevent employees making a flexible working request. Fathers who responded were particularly concerned that a request for flexible working signaled a lack of commitment to their employers and would impact negatively upon their career. Employers’ assumptions that men tended to be the breadwinners also led to the perception that fathers were restricted in making such requests. The Index reports that a focus on work-life balance at an organisational level could lead to flexible working arrangements being viewed positively. This could reduce stigma, or perceived stigma, around flexible working and more fathers may feel able to submit a flexible working request.

If you would like more information about considering flexible working requests please contact a member of our specialist Employment Law team on 01382 229111.