How to prepare for the new flexible working rules

As of 30 June changes to the procedure for flexible working requests will take place. All employees who have worked 26 weeks continuously for an employer will be able to ask if they can work flexibly. Previously only carers had the statutory right to make such a request.

But how do you prepare your company for this change in legislation. Read our top tips on how to handle the law change:

1. Remember that the old rules still apply

Any requests for flexible working made before 30 June still have to be processed under the old rules, so don't throw out your old flexible working policy just yet.

2. Explain to your staff who is now eligible

All employees who have worked for you for 26 weeks continuously before the request can now ask to work flexibly, whether they are carers or not. They must not have made a similar application in the previous 12 months.

3. Inform your employees what they need to provide to make a request

In the current draft code of practice it states that employees must provide you with the following:

  • The application date, the changes they want to their hours and when they want flexible working to take effect.
  • What effect they think the requested change will have on the company and how it can be dealt with.
  • A statement that it's a statutory request and if and when they have made a previous application for flexible working.

Requests still need to be in writing. If you can, draft a flexible working application to give to your staff.

4. Decide on how long the company will take to process requests

Under the old rules employers had to meet strict deadlines on how quickly they had to hold a meeting with the employee making a request. With the new law change, you now don't have a strict timetable to follow, but you must get back to the employee within three months. However, the old time limits do comply with the new rules, so you can keep this in place in your flexible working policy if it's easier for you not to change it.

5. Allow employees to be accompanied at the flexible working meeting

Once you receive a written request it's best to have a meeting with the member of staff to discuss it. But if you intend to approve the request, then you don't have to hold a meeting. Under the new legislation you're not obliged to let the employee be accompanied by a colleague at this meeting, but it's still advisable to keep this in place.

6. Keep in mind the grounds on how you can turn down a request

These haven't changed. You can only reject a request for one of the following business reasons:

  • The burden of additional costs
  • An inability to re-organise work amongst existing staff or to recruit additional staff
  • A detrimental impact on quality or performance, or the ability to meet customer demand
  • Insufficient work for the periods the employee proposes to work
  • A planned structural change to your business

7. Still allow an appeal process

You now really don't need to have an appeal process in place after 30 June, but it's wise to still do so. An appeal stage for requests that are turned down helps you to ensure that you have dealt with the request in the “reasonable manner” required under the new legislation. All requests, including any appeals, must be considered and decided on within a period of three months from first receipt, unless you agree to extend this period with the employee. This extension period hasn't been changed under the current legislation.

8. Inform your managers and employees of the law change

Your managers will need to know how to handle the new rules and your staff will need to know their new rights. It's good for company relations for an employer to circulate communication on the changes.

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Published on: June 19, 2014

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