Legislation Update: Flexible Working

On 30th June 2014 the right to request flexible working was extended to all staff with more than 26 weeks service.  This is expected to have a significant impact on GP surgeries where a key aspect of staff management is the expectancy that staff are able to work on a flexible basis.

An employee can make a statutory request once in any 12 month period. They are free to make non-statutory requests at any time if the employer permits this, and the employer is required to handle requests in a “reasonable manner.”

A request from an employee under the Employment Rights Act 1996 and regulations made under it must be in writing and must include the following information:

  • The date of their application, the change to working conditions they are seeking and when they would like the change to come into effect.
  • What effect, if any, they think the requested change would have on you as the employer and how, in their opinion, any such effect might be dealt with.
  • A statement that this is a statutory request and if and when they have made a previous application for flexible working.

Once an employer has received a request, it must be considered. Arrange to speak to the employee as soon as possible after receiving the written request.

You should allow an employee to be accompanied by a work colleague and any subsequent appeal discussion and the employee should be informed about this prior to the onset of the proceedings.

The request should be considered carefully looking at the benefits of the requested changes in working conditions for the employee and the business, and weighing these against any adverse business impact of implementing the changes. In considering the request you must take care not to discriminate unlawfully against the employee.

Inform the employee of that decision as soon as possible in writing. If you accept the employee’s request, or accept it with modifications, you should discuss with the employee how and when the changes might best be implemented.

If you reject the request it must be for one of the following business reasons as set out in the legislation:

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

and you must allow your employee to appeal the decision.

The law requires that 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.

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