If you have ever had to deal with flexible working requests, you will know that there is a strict procedure with prescribed deadlines that must be followed. To assist employers in dealing with such requests and ensuring that the process runs as smoothly as possible, hrlaw has prepared a helpful flowchart and top tips for dealing with flexible working requests.

Top Tips for employers dealing with requests for flexible working:

  • Check the employee is eligible, i.e. has at least 26 weeks’ continuous employment, has not made another request in the preceding 12 months, and is making the request to care for a child under 17 years (or 18 years if disabled) or an adult in need of care.
  • Consider all requests properly and thoroughly. A knee-jerk reaction could leave you vulnerable if an employee subsequently brings a claim (failure to follow correct procedure, constructive dismissal or indirect sex discrimination are the likely complaints). An employer must have a clear business reason which is within the scope of section 80G(1)(b) Employment Rights Act 1996 for refusing an application.
  • Diarise all critical dates and time limits once the request has been received.
  • If you accept the request, consider doing so subject to a trial period with a review scheduled at the end if it. Once the flexible working application is agreed it will be binding and become part of the employee’s contract. Without a trial period, you will require the employee’s consent to amend his/her working pattern – even if it is clearly not working for the needs of the business.
  • Ensure that a request made by an employee does not lead to any prejudicial treatment against the employee at a later date. Employees are protected against being disadvantaged for having exercised their right to request flexible working.

Right to request flexible working extending to all employees in 2014

The Government plans to introduce a new flexible working regime in 2014. If this happens, which seems likely, the right to request flexible working will be extended to all employees but the current 26 week qualifying period will be retained.

The current statutory procedure will be replaced with a duty on employers to deal with requests in a ‘reasonable’ manner, and within a ‘reasonable’ period of time, which will hopefully be less prescriptive than the current regime.

The government has stated that it will create a Statutory Code of Practice to give guidance as to the meaning of ‘reasonable’ to employers.

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