Flexible Working Regulations 2014
On 30 June 2014 the law regarding requests for flexible working will fundamentally change.
Before 30 June 2014, employees could only request flexible working to care for their children or certain categories of dependant adults. A strict timetable also had to be followed once a request had been made.
This all changes when the new legislation comes into force. All employees who have been employed for more than 26 weeks will be entitled to make a request for flexible working for any reason. The process involved has also been simplified.
After 30 June, an employee will need to make the request in writing and should confirm that it is made under the statutory procedure. They also need to clearly set out what changes they would like and how they believe these changes could be made. Flexible working includes part time work, home working and different work patterns.
As before, employees will be limited to making only one request for flexible working in any 12 month period.
When an employer receives a request they must:
- respond within three months or agree a longer time period with their employee; and
- deal with the request in a reasonable manner.
If an employer fails to do either then they could face a claim in an employment tribunal. The employment tribunal has the power to award compensation of up to eight weeks pay to the employee (subject to the current statutory limit of £464 per week). It can also order the employer to reconsider the request.
If an employer proposes rejecting a request, legal advice should be sought to check that they are not exposing themselves to a discrimination claim. Failure to correctly consider a request could prove costly both financially and in regards to management time.
Employers are still entitled to reject a request on eight very wide business grounds (such as being unable to meet customer demand), but they must ensure that they act reasonably if they reject a request.
If a request is granted, it is likely that the change will be a permanent change to an employee’s terms of employment. Employers will be obliged under the law to provide written confirmation of the changes to the employee within one month. It is advisable, to avoid any confusion over the employee’s terms of employment for employers to issue a new contract of employment.
The changes will mean that employers no longer need to follow rigid statutory rules when dealing with the requests under the simplified procedure. However, employers will now need to properly consider all and any requests for flexible working made by their staff.