Right to request flexible working extended to all employees
From 30 June 2014, employees with 26 weeks’ service have the right to request flexible working. The right is no longer limited to employees with children under 17, (or 18 if the child is disabled) or to those caring for an adult. Now any eligible employee can apply to work flexibly for any reason.
The request must be made in writing and only one request can be made in any 12-month period. Employers will have to consider requests in a “reasonable manner” and notify employees of their final decision within three months. Acas has issued a new Code of Practice for handling flexible working requests and non-statutory guidance
While this is a positive development for employees, the prescribed reasons to refuse a request remain unchanged and are very wide. An employer can refuse a flexible working request on the basis of one or more of the following eight prescribed reasons:
1. The burden of additional costs
2. Detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand
3. Inability to re-organise work among existing staff
4. Inability to recruit additional staff
5. Detrimental impact on quality
6. Detrimental impact on performance
7. Insufficiency of work during the periods the employee proposes to work
8. Planned structural changes
The new statutory scheme does not require employers to allow employees a right of appeal. However, the Acas code recommends that an appeal should be permitted.
Employees can bring an Employment Tribunal claim if:
- the employer fails to deal with their application in a reasonable manner;
- the employer fails to notify them of their decision within 3 months;
- the employer rejects the application for a reason other than one of the grounds set out above;
- the decision to reject the application is based on incorrect facts; or
- the employer treated the application as withdrawn when it was not entitled to do so.
If the Tribunal upholds the claim, a Tribunal can order the employer to reconsider the request and pay compensation of up to eight weeks’ pay (currently capped at £464 per week).
Tryvana Ekladious, Employment Solicitor