Changes to flexible working from June 30th 2014

I am sure you all familiar with the current rules in relation to flexible working which provide employees, who have caring responsibilities, the right to request flexible working from their employer.  It is worth noting that from the 30th June 2014, the Government will be amending the following in relation to flexible working requests.

Flexible working requests – the main changes

  • Extending the right to request flexible working to all employees (not just those with parental responsibility for a child, or caring responsibilities for an adult);
  • Replacing the current "right to request" procedure with a duty on employers to deal with requests in a reasonable manner, and within a "reasonable" period of time;
  • Create a statutory code of practice to give guidance on the meaning of "reasonable" to employers; and
  • Provide guidance to employers on how to prioritise conflicting requests that are received at the same time

What will stay the same?

  • The 26 week qualifying period for employees to make a flexible working request
  • Only one request per employee in any 12 month period

Indirect discrimination

The Equality Act will protect certain groups of employees if a decision is made which, whether intentional or not, means they are adversely affected. This is classed as indirect discrimination and is something that you will need to take into consideration, as usual, when reviewing requests. Indirect discrimination can be avoided by ensuring that those of a particular sex, sexual orientation, race, religious belief, disability or age group are not put at a disadvantage compared to other employees, when you make your decisions.

You need to ensure that your decisions can be objectively justified. This can be achieved by making sure that you have a legitimate business need and the decision you make is a proportionate means of fulfilling the need i.e. it goes no further than is necessary to achieve your aims.

The employer’s duty, as always, is to act fairly and reasonably when dealing with the flexible working requests and any refusals should be based on legitimate business reasons.

Legitimate business reasons to refuse a flexible working request

  • the burden of additional costs
  • an inability to reorganise work
  • an inability to recruit additional staff
  • a detrimental impact on quality or performance or to meet customer demand
  • insufficient work for the periods the employee proposes to work
  • a planned structural change to your business

It seems like the main changes are that all staff have the right to request, but employers have been given a bit more flexibility themselves in how they deal with the requests.  ACAS will be taking out the current prescriptive ‘statutory application procedure’ and allowing employers to deal with requests flexibly.

It would be advisable to keep an eye out for the ‘Code of Practice on the extended right to request flexible working’, which will be published by ACAS on or soon after 30th June 2014, and the FPM Protocols Library will be amended to reflect the changes.  The current procedure will still be valid if you want to continue to follow this within your practice.

Next topic: Disclosure & Barring Service (DBS) Formerly CRB

Stay up-to-date with relevant HR information and employment law by following me on Twitter @Jennifer_fpm

In addition to the above FPM members can obtain further information via the FPM website. Alternatively members can also email specific questions about employment issues to advice@firstpracticemanagement.co.uk where your question will be treated in confidence and will normally be answered (by email) within 2 working days of submission.


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