THE end of June saw the introduction of new legislation around flexible working, something employers and employees need to be aware of.
From June 30 all employees have the right to request flexible working after 26 weeks’ service (this is a right to request and not a right to be granted flexible working).
Prior to this only employees with children under the age of 17 (or 18 if the child is disabled) and certain carers had the right to request flexible working; this new legislation opens this up to all employees.
The view from the government is this will help businesses recruit and retain the right people, enable more people to work and will benefit older workers.
Flexible working can include working from home, going part-time or flexitime. The wider view is that a better work-life balance will improve the health of employees. As both an employer and parent, I understand how important it is to have a supportive approach to flexible working.
Many businesses already embrace flexible working and this can have many benefits. It can help develop a motivated, happy workforce with increased commitment to the business, increased productivity and reduced absence. It can also help in recruiting high calibre staff. Certainly the development of the internet and the ability to work on the cloud is expanding opportunities to work more flexibly. As an employee, flexible working can be a great help in helping you balance work with your other responsibilities outside of work.
However this is only a right to request flexible working and any application should only be granted if it fits the needs of the business. In any request an employee must put forward a solid case as to how this will fit with the requirements of the business. Requests must be made in writing and there is a formal process that must be followed. Employers are in their right to refuse a request if this presents additional costs, impacts on the level of service the business provides or has a generally adverse effect on the business.
Concerns have been raised from the business community that this could have some negative consequences for employers and also present challenges for small businesses. There is concern that refusal could lead to tension in the workplace and this is yet another piece of legislation for employers.
There is also a lack of clarification on how businesses manage multiple competing applications for flexible working as well as the issue of potential litigation from aggrieved employees – although this can only be taken to tribunal where the proper process has not been followed.
We support the general principles of flexible working where this fits with the needs of the business – but understand the challenges this presents and it is essential employers are aware of and understand this legislation. Employers need to know how to treat applications for flexible working properly and for more information visit acas.org.uk