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Changes this month: How Flexible is your business?
From 30 June 2014, all employees with 26 weeks’ service will have the right to request flexible working for any reason. As before, there will be no obligation on the employer to agree to a request, just to consider it.

The current statutory procedure for dealing with requests for those with children or certain caring responsibilities is being abolished. Instead, employers will be able to use their own HR processes, provided requests are dealt with reasonably and decided on within three months (unless an extension is agreed). As is the case now, employers will only be able to refuse a flexible working application for one of the eight business reasons as listed below:

• The burden of any additional costs is unacceptable to the organisation;
• It is not possible to reorganise work among existing staff;
• You are unable to recruit additional staff;
• You consider that the change will have a detrimental impact upon quality;
• You consider that the change would have a detrimental effect on the business’ ability to meet customer demand;
• The changes would lead to a detrimental impact on performance of the employee, team or on the business as a whole;
• There is insufficient work during the periods the employee has proposed to work;
• There are planned structural changes which will not fit with the proposed working arrangements.

A “first come, first served” policy might be the fairest way to implement this if you get a large number of applications. However, there are issues that need to be considered as a consequence of this change. For example, there is no obligation to prioritise and make a judgment on the most deserving request, although there may be a wish to do so. Subject to the business case for each application being equal, there is a strong case for prioritising requests that are likely to lead to a discrimination claim if refused (e.g. those from an employee who is disabled or who cares for a young child). Also, there may be merit in taking the potential effect of refusing a request into account, particularly where the employee has made it clear that they would be unable to continue working if it was turned down.

Acas has produced a Code of Practice and non-statutory Guidance on how to handle requests, but if you need more advice on how to handle requests and support to update your documentation contact Cherington HR.
Posted on 19 Nov 2016

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