Flexible working has been extended to include all employees who have worked for their employer for 26 weeks or more. Previously, flexible working was only available to employees with caring responsibilities.
The aim of the government is to promote a healthy work/life balance which, in turn, they hope will contribute success and growth across all sectors by enabling businesses to retain talent using flexibility to ensure that they get the best from their people. Employees are able to work flexibly and take up further education should they wish to, or simply get involved with other activities outside the workplace.
An employee can make one application in a 12 month period. ACAS recommends that applications should be in writing and as specific as possible in terms of hours, days and places of work. Applicants should also think about the effect it will have on their team or other colleagues. If the business refuses the application the employee may have a right to appeal that decision.
Businesses have been urged to be open minded; the change is unpopular as it can create disruption in working practices and some resentment amongst colleagues. There is also an additional administrative burden to be considered. Employees must be treated equally when applications are considered, to avoid any potential discrimination claims. Where possible employers may use a trial period to enable them to identify any additional measures that are necessary.
When a request is received, employers need to act reasonably and meet to discuss the matter with the employee as soon as possible and allow them to bring a colleague to the discussion. Any decision must be made purely on a business case and the reasons should be laid out clearly.
Employees should be given an opportunity to appeal. A policy with a procedure laid out will provide guidelines for employers to make sure that their process cannot be judged to be unfair. The eight reasons that currently are valid for refusing a request will remain, including burden of additional costs; the need to satisfy customer demand and the impact on quality of service or production and performance.
ACAS believed that staff are willing to go ‘the extra mile’ for employers who are prepared to accommodate their needs and that this will boost morale and productivity. The challenge for employers is to deal with requests efficiently and still maintain a fully operational and efficient working environment.
The Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) was very upbeat about the positive impact the legislation would have on the economy when it reported projections just over a year ago. It will take a little more time before we see whether the projections were over-optimistic, cautious, or whether they nailed it at an £8.1bn increase in net value to the economy