Important changes to the law on the right to request flexible working take effect on 30 June 2014. We set out eight easy steps that employers can take to amend their procedures for dealing with employees’ requests for flexible working that are made on or after 30 June.
Flexible working changes: key XpertHR resources
1. Don’t throw out your old flexible working policy just yet
While the law on the right to request flexible working is changing on 30 June 2014, employers need to bear in mind that the old rules still apply to employees’ requests to work flexibly submitted before 30 June. Requests made before 30 June should still be dealt with under the old procedure, including requests that are ongoing on that date.
2. Explain to employees who is eligible to make a flexible working request
The eligibility requirements are changing on 30 June 2014 so that employees no longer have to have parental responsibility for young children or be a carer to request flexible working. However, the new policy should explain to employees the minimum service requirement that is in place under the new rules.
3. Remind employees of what a flexible working request must include
Employers should set out in their flexible working policy what information employees must include in flexible working applications and, ideally, provide a form for employees to fill in when making a flexible working application.
- Form for an employee to submit a request for flexible working (requests made on or after 30 June 2014)
4. Decide on time limits for dealing with flexible working requests
Employers can choose their own time limits as long as the process is completed within three months. Under the old rules, strict time limits applied for the employer to hold a meeting with the employee to discuss his or her flexible working request. Employers that are reviewing their flexible working policy for the 30 June changes may wish to keep these time limits in place, since the old time limits comply with the new laws too.
- Model flexible working policy setting out an example timescale that employers can have in place to complete the process
Flexible working: what’s staying the same?
While there are a number of important changes to the right to request flexible working from 30 June, some rules survive. These include:
- The employee must still have 26 weeks’ continuous service with the employer to be eligible to make a request.
- Requests must still be in writing and include certain specified information.
- Employees can still make only one request in every 12-month period.
- The refusal of requests for flexible working must still be for one or more of a number of specified business reasons.
- The time limit for coming to a decision on whether or not to grant a flexible working request can still be extended, typically to allow for a trial period of the new arrangement.
5. Continue to offer employees the right to be accompanied at flexible working meetings if you can
Although no longer a legal requirement, it is a good idea for employers to allow employees to be accompanied by a work colleague at any flexible working meeting. This is particularly important where an employee needs special assistance, for example where he or she is disabled or English is not his or her first language.
6. Continue to offer employees an appeal stage if you can
Strictly speaking, employers do not have to offer an appeal stage to employees who make flexible working requests on or after 30 June 2014. While it may not be possible for small businesses to offer an appeal stage, it is advisable for employers, if possible, to continue to offer employees who are dissatisfied with the outcome of their flexible working request the right to appeal. An appeal stage for requests that are turned down will go some way to ensuring that requests are dealt with in the “reasonable manner” required under the new legislation.
- Model flexible working policy offering employees a right of appeal against flexible working decisions
7. Inform managers of the new policy on requests for flexible working
Since line managers will often be dealing with flexible working requests, it is important that the employer informs them of its amended rules on employees requesting flexible working. This could take the form of training or a circulated communication to managers setting out how they should deal with requests for flexible working made on or after 30 June 2014.
- Model letter informing managers of how they should deal with requests for flexible working made on or after 30 June 2014
8. Inform employees of their new rights in relation to requesting flexible working
Many employees are likely to be unaware of their new right to request flexible working. It constitutes good industrial relations for employers to set out in a circulated communication the extended right to request flexible working in force from 30 June 2014.