Parents or others with responsibility for children will soon have the right to request flexible working patterns. We explain what these changes could mean for employers
From 6 April employees with children under six or disabled children under 18 and at least six months' service will have the right to request working patterns - that is the hours, times and places they work - that allow them better to meet their responsibilities towards young children. The law does not put the employer under an absolute duty to agree to the request, but says it must consider the request seriously, hold a meeting with the employee if it intends to refuse, and put reasons for refusal in writing. Even then, the employee can take the matter further, ultimately to tribunal, if he or she wishes.
Who can make a request for flexible working under the legislation?
The Flexible Working (Eligibility, Complaints and Remedies) Regulations 2002 provide that the person making the application must be an employee who:
- Has been continuously employed for no fewer than 26 weeks
- Is either the mother, father, adopter, guardian or foster parent of the child or the partner of such a person
- Has or expects to have responsibility for the upbringing of the child
What is the procedure for seriously considering a request for flexible working?
The detailed steps the employer must follow are set out in the Flexible Working (Procedural Requirements) Regulations 2002. The basic procedure is as follows.
Step 1: An employee produces a request for flexible working setting out the pattern he or she wishes to work and how this might be accommodated within the business.
Step 2:Within 28 days of receiving the request, you must either:
a) write to the employee, specifying how the contract will change and from what date. There is no specified time period for setting up the new arrangements - it will depend on how much action is required, recruiting a job share partner, for example, or just rewriting the contract of employment. Eight weeks is suggested as good practice.
b) set up a meeting with the employee at a time convenient to both parties to discuss the request. The employee can bring a companion to the meeting. If you have already decided you cannot accommodate the working pattern, you should consider and put forward other ways you can