When your employee gives you a flexible working request do you know legally what you need to do? If not, read on…
Businesses need to look at a variety of methods to help close the gender pay gap and one such way is flexible working. The Chartered Management Institute’s (CMI) most recent report shows that in the 5 years since the statutory change stipulating that any employee with 26 weeks continuous service can make a request for flexible working, understanding of the legalisation is worryingly low from UK managers. In fact, they report that “only 1 in 4 managers fully understand the existing right to request legislation”
Benefits of flexible working to businesses can include –
- Increases employee motivation
- Better work life balance
- Greater job satisfaction
- Attracts and retains talent
- Reduces office costs/stress
- Boosts productivity
So, what do you need to do when legally considering a flexible working application?
As an employer there are 3 legal points you can be in breach of if you do not:
- Give one of the 8 legal reasons for rejection to the employer (see below)
- Take longer than 3 months for the whole process to be completed (from start to finish)
- Give any reason for rejecting the application that isn’t factually correct
Eight legal reasons for rejection of a flexible working application:
- Burden of additional costs
- Determinantal effect on ability to meeting customer demand
- Inability to reorganise work among existing staff
- Inability to recruit additional staff
- Detrimental impact on quality
- Detrimental impact on performance
- Insufficiency of work during the period the employee proposes to work
- Planned structural changes
There is no legal right for the outcome of the flexible working request to be in writing or even to hold an appeal, but it is best practice to do so.
You must state at least one of these reasons if you are rejecting a flexible working application.
Any employee can apply for flexible working as long as they have 26 weeks continuous service, it can be for any reason they wish. The law used to state you had to be parent to request this right but this is no longer the case.
Once your employee submits a flexible working application the first thing you should do is set up a meeting (ideally face to face) as soon as possible after receiving the application.
You do not need to make a decision at the meeting, you can do this after and write to the employee with the outcome.
After the meeting if you agree to the request, the employee must receive the agreement in writing, with the date this is effective from and any other changes. An amendment to/ new contract or statement of terms and conditions must be issued within 28 days of the agreement to the changes.
If you do not agree to the application and if you cannot come to a compromise then you will need to write to the employee to confirm why the request is refused (citing one of the 8 reasons above).
It is best practice to give the option of appeal to the employee, then you can continue to discuss alterative patterns of flexible working or even a trial period.
After the appeal hearing it is best practice to write to the employee with the outcome of the appeal and why the application has been declined again.
The whole process from receipt of the application to the final decision being made must be completed within 3 months.
The employee has the right to make another application 12 months after the last application.
With over 12 years’ experience as a HR Consultant, and helping hundreds of individuals with flexible working applications and appeals over the last 2 years, I now also offer a flexible working helpline for employers/ managers – To book a call please email anna@Hr-puzzle.com or to find out more.