30 / 6 / 2014 8.46am
Our legal partners Capsticks outline the new flexible working request regime and what it means for employers.
A new flexible working request regime came into force on 30 June 2014. From this date, all employees with 26 weeks’ continuous employment will be able to make a request to work flexibly regardless of whether they are the parent of a child or carer of an adult. This, of course, is a significant extension of the right and could have a major impact on NHS employers where workforce planning is critical to the success of the service.
As was previously the case, flexible working could entail any of the following:
• A change to hours of work
• A change to the times when an employee is required to work
• A change to the place of work.
Together with the extension of the right, employers should be aware of the changes to the strict procedures that employers were previously required to follow in dealing with a request and consider any amendments that should be made to your own flexible working policies.
Change to procedure
The previous statutory procedure set out specific time limits for dealing with a flexible working request in respect of the meeting to discuss the request, responding to the request and an appeal. This will be repealed and, instead, employers will be under a duty to consider a request in a ‘reasonable manner’.
ACAS has produced a code of practice on how employers should now handle flexible working requests, which should be read in conjunction with the ACAS guide 'Handling requests in a reasonable manner to work flexibly'
The extension of the right to request flexible working could have a significant impact on NHS employers and prove difficult to manage where multiple requests are received. However, the relaxation of the strict rules on procedure is to be welcomed.
Employers may wish to consider whether the granting of a flexible working request could be used in the development of the 24/7 NHS service. It may be that the granting of flexible working requests could be used as part of the workforce plan to drive forward agreement to 24/7 working. An agreement to flexible working could be on the basis that other work takes place over a 24/7 shift system.
Flexible working is seen by many to encourage loyalty and productivity amongst staff. Managers should, therefore, be encouraged to remain open minded about applications and to discuss the ways in which such requests can be accommodated, not just with the applicant but with other staff who will be affected.
The application process
Flexible working FAQs