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This article has now been superseded. Please read the latest article here.
Two important changes are to be made to the law on flexible working this year:
The changes were due in April but it is rumoured that they will be delayed until later in the year.
The new legislation is unlikely to be finalised for several months, so this note is based on the current draft. One hopes that few, if any, changes are made to the current draft in order to give employers time to prepare for the changes.
The Government's aim is to simplify the current statutory procedure, which is very process driven. Under the new procedure, the main requirements on the employer are to:
In addition, as is the case currently, employers can only reject the Request for a permitted reason.
The ACAS Code
ACAS have produced a Code of Practice (the Code) to give further guidance on how a Request should be dealt with. The Code is not binding on Employment Tribunals but they will take it into account when deciding cases. Therefore, employers should generally follow the Code.
Key points from the Code include that employers should:
Employers are only entitled to reject the Request for one or more of eight permitted reasons. They are as follows:
These are the same as in the existing legislation.
Review your policy: if you have a policy that does not already permit all employees with 26 weeks' continuous employment to make a Request, this should be updated. If your current policy includes a prescriptive process (in line with the current statutory procedure), you should consider amending it to reflect the new procedure to give your organisation more flexibility in how Requests are dealt with.
Consider training managers: it is important that managers know what to do when they receive a Request and how Requests should be considered. Those dealing with Requests should be aware of what the Code says and how to comply. Training should also highlight the risk of discrimination claims resulting from a refusal to grant a Request and how best to minimise this risk.
Reflect: if your organisation does not already facilitate flexible working, you may wish to think about how it can work within your organisation. Many employers have already embraced flexible working and value the various benefits it can produce. This, and changing employee attitudes, has resulted in a general trend towards additional flexibility which is increasingly valued by employees.
For more information please contact Christopher Bushnell, Associate
T: +44 (0)20 7427 6427