Until now only parents and carers have had a statutory right to request flexible working. From 30th June 2014 this right is extended to ALL employees, as long as they have at least 26 weeks’ continuous employment.

Despite the Government’s promise to reduce red-tape for micro businesses ( ie those employing under 10 people), they will not be exempt from this new legislation.

So what does flexible working include? Flexible working can include changing hours of work (eg flexitime, flexible start and finish times, term-time working, compressed hours and annual hours), changing work patterns (eg entering into a job share arrangement, working from home and mobile working), or any other form of alternative work arrangements.

What will employers have to do? Although much of the previous procedural requirements will be removed by the new legislation, such as the prescriptive timetable, ACAS are recommending that companies still follow an agreed internal procedure and retain key aspects of the previous system, so that they can deal with each application “in a reasonable manner”.

To meet the new ACAS guidelines, organisations will need to:

  • Meet with the employee to discuss their request in a timely and constructive manner.
  • Allow the employee to be accompanied by a work colleague, if requested.
  • Ask the employee to explain their proposal and consider how it would work in practice.
  • Explain how multiple requests from different employees will be handled fairly.
  • If the request is granted, agree if there will be a trial period and if it will be temporary or permanent.
  • If the request cannot be accommodated, explore other options and possible compromises.
  • Inform the employee of the organisation’s decision and also convey it in writing.
  • Explain that only one request for flexible working can be made, per person, in any 12 month period.
  • Allow an employee to appeal the decision if their request is rejected.
  • Ensure the process is either completed in under three months, or extended by mutual agreement.

What are the advantages of Flexible Working? It can enable employees to manage their work, home and caring responsibilities more effectively, reducing stress and potentially increasing job satisfaction. Flexible work practices are often linked to more open and autonomous work methods that can focus on results-driven performance rather than presenteeism.

It is hoped that the law change will prompt businesses to seek better ways of accommodating the wishes of certain groups such as older workers who may want to reduce their working time, prior to (or instead of) retirement.

There may also be opportunities for businesses to reduce their accommodation costs by utilising hot-desking, increasing homeworking and mobile working options and implementing more variable shift patterns.

According to Daniel Pink, best-selling author of Drive – The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us, the key to motivating people in modern society is through intrinsic motivation, where people are self-motivated via greater autonomy, mastery and purpose. Flexible working in all its many and various forms, has a key role to play in achieving this type of motivation, so I am hopeful that this new legislation will be seen as a helpful catalyst for change rather than just another legislative burden for small businesses.

If you need help developing your own Flexible Working Policy, just drop me a line via the contact form or email me at kay@kayhealdhr.co.uk

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