The Flexible Working Regulations 2014 come in to force on 30 June 2014, and significantly widen the scope for employees to request flexible working.
Historically, the right to request flexible working was limited to employees who had been continuously employed for 26 weeks, and who had children under the age of 16, or disabled children under 18 or those who cared for an elderly relative. However, from 30 June 2014, any employee who has been employed continuously for at least 26 weeks will have the right to submit a request for flexible working and will therefore have the ability to request a change in their hours of work, times of work or location of work.
Any flexible working request must be submitted in writing, dated and must state if any previous flexible working requests have been made as only one request can be made per 12 month period. An employer is under a duty to seriously consider an employee’s request for flexible working. As of 30 June 2014, Employers will no longer be obliged to follow a set statutory procedure when dealing with the request. Employers will now simply be under a duty to deal with requests in a ‘reasonable manner’, and generally deal with the request and any appeal within a period of 3 months.
An employer can however, refuse a request for flexible working if one or more of the 8 grounds set out in the Regulations exist. These grounds are:
- It would result in additional cost to the business
- It would have a detrimental effect on quality
- The company’s ability to meet customer demand
- The employer is unable to reorganise the employees work amongst existing staff
- The employer is unable to recruit additional staff
- The change in working arrangements would result in insufficient work being available for the employee during the periods they wish to work
- There are structural changes planned for the business
An employee wishing to challenge their employer’s refusal to grant flexible working can only do so on the grounds that their employer has failed to follow the correct procedure in addressing their request, has not rejected the application on one of the specified grounds or has made the decision based on incorrect facts. There is little scope for an employee to challenge the commercial decision made by the business.
If an employer fails to consider a request properly or fails to follow the correct procedure, an employee may be entitled to up to 8 weeks pay (currently capped at £464 per week). It is therefore important that employers familiarise themselves with the new rules and procedure for flexible working requests before 30 June 2014.