The right to request flexible working changes in 2024, with it becoming a right from day 1 for all employees. This comes in an environment where we are seeing increasing numbers of requests as employees look for work schedules that better suit their personal lives.
For employers, managing these requests requires careful consideration and adherence to legal requirements. In this article, we’ll delve into the process of handling flexible working requests for employers.
Handling requests is one aspect, however, with the right to request becoming a day one right where possible employers should build flexibility into job roles by design. Thought should be put into how the role can be done in different ways, consider advertising this and discussing options with candidates during the recruitment process.
Understanding Flexible Working Rights
With effect from April 2024 all employees will have the statutory right to request flexible working arrangements from day one of employment. This encompasses a variety of changes, including alterations to work hours, times and location (such as remote work). It’s important to note that this right is not absolute; it’s a request that employers are obligated to consider but not necessarily grant.
Previously employees were only able to make one request in a 12 month period, with effect from April, two requests can be made in each 12 month period.
It should also be noted that the words “flexible working” are a bit misleading. What it really means is a right to request to make a change to employment terms such as hours, times or location. This change is permanent and usually to a new fixed pattern but one that is different from the original or norm.
Handling Flexible Working Requests
When an employee submits a flexible working request, is should be in writing and, it must include specific details: the date of the request the change the employee is requesting to the terms and conditions of their employment in relation to their hours, times or place of work the date the employee would like the change to come into effect if and when the employee has made a previous request for flexible working to the employer It is no longer a requirement for the employee to provide information on how the change will impact the business.
Upon receiving a request, employers have two months to respond, but it’s advisable to address it promptly to alleviate any employee anxiety. If the request aligns with business needs and feasibility, acceptance can be straightforward and without any discussion. However, if there are concerns of if you’re considering turning down a request you must have a meeting with the employee to discuss the request in detail.
During the meeting, employers can explore potential mitigations, alternative solutions, or adjustments that could make the request more viable. This collaborative approach demonstrates a commitment to finding mutually beneficial outcomes.
Reasons for Rejection
While employers have the discretion to decline flexible working requests, it must be done for valid reasons that fall within specific criteria, which are:
- The burden of additional costs.
- Inability to reorganise work among existing staff.
- Inability to recruit additional staff.
- Detrimental impact on quality or performance.
- Detrimental impact on the ability to meet customer demands.
- Insufficient work during proposed working times.
- Planned workforce changes.
If turning down a request you must communicate the reasons for rejection clearly and it is best practice to offer the right to appeal.
Navigating the Decision-Making Process
When faced with a decision to accept or decline a flexible working request, employers must weigh the potential impact on both the business and the individual. While accommodating requests increases employee satisfaction and retention, it’s essential to balance this with operational needs and business objectives.
Engaging in open dialogue, offering alternatives, and considering the broader implications can help facilitate constructive outcomes. Regardless of the decision, maintaining transparency and empathy throughout the process is key to preserving positive employer-employee relationships.
Requests as a Reasonable Adjustment for a Disability
Where a request is made by someone with a disability as a required adjustment, this should be considered taking into account the requirement under The Equality Act 2010 for employers to make reasonable adjustments for employees with a disability. Employers are required to make reasonable adjustments to create a level playing field for those with disabilities. In this situation, we recommend specific advice is sought especially if considering turning down the request.
In conclusion, navigating flexible working requests requires a strategic approach that prioritises both employee well-being and business requirements. By understanding legal obligations, encouraging open communication, and evaluating requests thoughtfully, employers can effectively manage flexible working arrangements while promoting a conducive work environment for all parties involved.
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Article last updated: 12 February 2024
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