March 18, 2014

Employment e-Brief – A new era of flexible working

The Children and Families Act 2014 received royal assent last week, giving everyone a right to request flexible working. The reform represents a major change to working conditions and opens up the possibility of flexible working for all.

WHAT IS FLEXIBLE WORKING?

Flexible working covers a wide range of circumstances, including:

  • Part-time working;
  • Flexi-time;
  • Job-sharing;
  • Remote working;
  • Working from home;
  • Compressed hours; and
  • Term-time working.

WHAT IS THE CURRENT POSITION?

Currently, parents and guardians have the right to request flexible working if they are caring for a disabled child under 18 or a child under the age of 17. There are also limited circumstances in which an adult carer may request flexible working.

An employer is under a legal obligation to consider the request and must have one of the following legitimate reasons to reject the request:

  • Burden of additional costs;
  • Inability to reorganise work among existing staff;
  • Inability to recruit additional staff;
  • Detrimental impact on quality;
  • Detrimental impact on performance;
  • Detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand;
  • Insufficient work for the periods the employee proposes to work; and
  • Planned structural change to the business.

If a request is refused, without good reason, or is not dealt with under the correct procedure an employee may bring a claim for up to 8 weeks’ compensation.

WHAT’S CHANGED?

Under the new legislation, every employee, with 26 weeks’ service, will have the right to request flexible working, not just those caring for children. Although this is only a right to make a request, it is estimated that 60,000 new flexible working arrangements will be entered into each year.

The reforms were due to be rolled out next month but will now come in force on 30 June 2014. The statutory procedure, which currently lays down a timescale for considering flexible working requests, will be abolished but employers will be under a duty to consider each request ‘reasonably’. More guidance is needed to determine what ‘reasonable’ consideration will include.

WHAT IMPACT WILL THIS HAVE?

The government believes that the changes will make the workforce “fit for the 21st century” but there are concerns that this may create an additional administration burden on small business.

The reforms aim to create a family friendly environment, boost productivity and enhance economic growth. In fact, the government estimates that in the first 10 years the reforms could bring overall economic benefits of around £475m due to increased productivity, lower employee turnover and reduced absenteeism.

If you have are queries please contact the Employment Team.