Who is flexible working available to?

From April 6th 2009 employees with children up to the age of 16 (18 if the child is disabled) have the right to request the right to work flexibly. Please note the word request.

What is the process?

The employer has to respond within 28 days of receiving the request to arrange a meeting to discuss the request for flexible working.  A decision must be made by the employer within 14 days of the meeting to accept the employees’ request or to reject for the following reasons:

•    Burden of additional cost
•    Detrimental impact on quality
•    Detrimental impact on performance
•    Inability to recruit additional staff
•    Detrimental effect to meet customer demand
•    Planned structural changes
•    Insuffiency of work during the periods when the employee proposes to work
•    Inability to reorganise work among existing staff

The rejection should be given to the employee in a written form.

What is the appeal process?

The employee can appeal the decision and it must be heard within 14 days of the employer receiving the appeal request. If the employer continues to reject the request, reasons why should be provided to the employee.

The employee can still hold further informal discussions with the employer to try to reach an agreement on flexible working or they can:

•    Raise a grievance
•    Ask ACAS to help through their conciliation process
•    Make a complaint to an Employment Tribunal

What next?

Employers shouldn’t feel all requests must be accepted. Positions need to be carefully considered on a case by case basis.

Before rejecting a request for flexible working you could consider a trial that way the employer could be absolved of dismissing the proposal out of hand and thereby of discrimination or breaching the regulations. It helps to have a harmonious relationship with your workforce but the business needs must be prioritised. The employer must also remember that all request must be dealt with fairly and equitably otherwise they could face discrimination if say A won the right to work flexibly whereas B who has a similar position failed.

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