It’s been over a year now since employers have been required by law to consider their employee requests for flexibility of their working hours and location. For instance, they might ask for adjusted start and finish times, or to request the option to perform certain duties from home on specific days. All workers – not just carers and parents with young children – have the right to ask for this exception to normal work hours.
Employers are required to act in a reasonable manner. Legally, this means they must assess the pros and cons, take time to have a meeting with the worker, as well as offer a procedure for appeals.
Your employee handbook (including grievance and conflict resolution methods) should always have the input of a human resources expert – but, more importantly, the advice of a contracts lawyer.
Employee’s Statutory Application for Flexible Working
The worker must have been employed with the same company for the past 26 consecutive weeks. Only one application may be made per year in the following manner:
- The employee puts their request to the employer by filling out the standard form, describing their current and desired working patterns. Additionally, they provide their thoughts on how this change will impact their co-workers, and the business, as well as offering any suggestion for dealing with that impact.
- The employer is given 3 months (or longer if employee agrees) to consider this request before making a decision.
- If agreed to – the terms and conditions in the employee’s contract must be changed accordingly within 28 days of the approval. The employer writes the employee, with a stated agreement of changes agreed upon, and the beginning date.
- If not agreed to – the employer must (in writing) give the employee their reasons for refusal. The employer can refuse the request for one of the following allowed business reasons:
- The request will add extra expenses which could damage the business.
- The work cannot be redistributed between other staff members.
- Additional people cannot be recruited to fulfill the work.
- The flexible working plan would affect the performance and quality of the firm.
- The changes won’t allow the company to meet customer demands.
- There are planned changes to the workforce in process.
- A lack of work exists during the proposed flex times requested.
Note: The employer can treat an application as withdrawn – by notifying the employee in writing – if the employee fails to appear for more than one meeting (unless with good reason, such as illness). Said appointments must have been scheduled for the purpose of discussing the application or an appeal.
The Appeal Process – 3 Ways
Appeal – If the employee’s request has been refused, they should be allowed file a complaint, by following the employer’s set procedures for same. Though it is no longer a statutory right to appeal a refusal for flexible working, by offering this process the employer demonstrates they are acting in a ‘reasonable manner.’
Grievance – Next, an employee can make a formal grievance per the procedure outlined in the company’s handbook or employment contract. An employee would write a letter to the employer (detailing their problems) and meet with that employer, while retaining the right for an appeal.
Tribunal – When either the request, or the appeal, has not been handled in a reasonable manner, the worker can take the employer to an employment tribunal. These claims should be made in writing within 3 months of the event date, and the employee will be charged a claim fee as well as a hearing fee – though they may able to receive assistance if they are low income or receiving certain benefits. The tribunal is an objective and independent party, obliged to listen to both sides (employee-claimant and employer-respondent) prior to determining their final decision.
Types of Employee Flexible Working Plans
There are several options for flex work scheduling, from which an employee can choose to apply:
- Job Sharing – 2 employees share one job, by splitting the hours
- Working from home – Some or all the work can be done at home or any other location than company office.
- Part Time – Fewer hours are worked than would be for full-time, usually fewer days per week.
- Compressed hours – Longer hours are worked over fewer days; such as four 10-hour days.
- Flexitime – Employee selects a starting and finishing time that works for them; to include the company’s “core hours” (such as 10am-4pm).
- Annualised Hours – Employee is required to work a specific total of hours, while having a bit of flexibility as to when they work. They may plan to be in office during the company’s core hours, and fulfill the rest of their hours as agreed upon.
- Staggered Hours – This employee has different start, end and breaks times than other workers, and can be used to accommodate ‘total coverage’ of the office at all open hours.
- Phased Retirement – As the default retirement age is now a thing of the past, workers over 65 can now choose to work much longer. During these increased years, they may decide to work part time and reduce hours, and cannot be prevented from working due to discrimination laws.