Living in more modern times, our choices of working hours are no longer limited to the typical 9-5. Especially those living in the UK where every employee now has the right to ask for flexible working hours.
Here are some essential things that both businesses and employees need to know when flexi hour requests are made.
From a Business Point of View
It’s been suggested that employers willing to offer flexible working would attract a higher number of applicants.
Of course, when refusing an application for flexible working, employers must have a sound business reason for doing so. Their reason must fall into one or more of the eight statutory reasons:
- the burden of additional costs
- detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand
- inability to reorganise work among existing staff
- inability to recruit additional staff
- detrimental impact on quality
- detrimental impact on performance
- insufficiency of work during the periods the employee proposes to work
- planned structural changes.
Grounds for refusal such as ‘it will open the floodgates to more requests’ will not suffice.
Such a response to female employees also risks claims of indirect sex discrimination which can be very costly to defend, both financially and from a reputation perspective.
Every employee has the right to request flexible working, provided that they have 26 weeks’ continuous employment service.
From the Employee’s Point of View
There’s no longer the need for the employee making a request to work flexibly to do so in order to care for a child or be a carer of an adult.
There is also no set procedure in dealing with requests.
The law simply states that applications for flexible working, made by eligible employees, must be dealt with in a reasonable manner, and within a period of three months.
The change in legislation in June 2014 has undoubtedly increased the number of applications for flexible working made, but not as much as expected.
Options for flexible working, for whatever reason, could include requests for:
- a reduction in working hours (working part-time hours or reduced hours)
- a change in working pattern (a change to standard working hours)
- a change in working location (home or remote working).
Despite all of the options available for flexible working, and the extended statutory right for employees to request to work flexibly since June 2014, a third of those surveyed believed that their current employer would not allow them to work flexibly.
Putting it All Together For the Best Working Environment
Flexible working is no longer a ‘nice to have’. Employers must properly consider all requests for flexible working, taking into account the different ways in which employees seek to work nowadays. A flexible workforce may even benefit their business.
Some top tips for dealing with applications for flexible working include:
- keeping an open mind and challenge any policy that particular roles can only ever be done on a full-time basis. For example, part-time HR jobs are massively on the rise.
- dealing with requests in a reasonable manner
- encourage the applicant to consider the impact their request will have on their colleagues. Tensions can often arise where others feel they have to pick up the slack
- ensuring that any reasons for refusing the request, if applicable, fall within at least one of the specified reasons
- if there are genuine business reasons why flexible working is not feasible, make sure these are properly evidenced, rather than personal preference of managers;
- ‘we already have too many people who work flexibly’ is not one of the permitted grounds for refusing a request
Flexible hours will only continue to get more popular and for good reason. Using this guide will make sure you, as an employee or your business isn’t left behind the times.