06 June 2014 #Employment
The Children and Families Act 2014, which received Royal Assent on 13 March 2014, will introduce a number of changes to employment legislation, including to those parts which relate to the right to request flexible working. (For information about other changes introduced by the Act, see shared parental leave and pay link and time off for antenatal appointments link).
The existing rights and obligations
Currently, the right to request flexible working is granted only to employees who:
Such employees have the right to make a flexible working request i.e. to their hours, times or place of work. The application must be in writing and include certain information (e.g. the change they are seeking and the date that they would like it to come into effect). The employer is then required to follow a statutory procedure when considering the request and to consider the request properly, and may only refuse it on one or more of eight specified grounds.
The statutory procedure is complex and prescriptive, requiring both the employee and the employer to take certain steps and provide certain information, within certain time frames (albeit, the penalties for a purely procedural breach are limited). The key steps are:
For more information about the current rules, see flexible working request link.
Changes from 30 June 2014
From 30 June 2014 (it was originally going to be 6 April 2014 but was later postponed), the following changes will come into effect:
The steps recommended by the ACAS Code are essentially the same as those required by the statutory procedure, i.e. meeting with the employee to discuss the request, allowing the employee to be accompanied to such a meeting by a colleague, informing the employee of the decision, and allowing the employee opportunity to appeal if desired.
Other aspects of the right to request flexible working legislation will remain the same. For example:
In addition, as now, there will be no limit on the number of non-statutory requests for flexible working which an employee may make. A failure to consider, or a refusal of, either a non-statutory or statutory request may, in certain circumstances, amount to unlawful sex or disability discrimination or entitle the employee to resign and claim constructive unfair dismissal.
Employers may wish to update their flexible working request policies and train their managers on the new rules, if they have not already done so. The ACAS Code recommends that employers consider introducing a policy for handling requests to work flexibly, and that it do so in consultation with employees and any recognised Trade Union.