Flexible working rights extended
Although awaiting confirmation, new flexible working rights are expected to be introduced on 30 June 2014. All employees, regardless of whether they have caring responsibilities or not, will have the right to request a different working pattern.
The extended rights to request flexible working is likely to result in a significant increase in the amount of flexible working applications to employers.
The good news is that the current procedures are being relaxed, allowing employers to consider requests in a ‘reasonable manner and timescale’ only. A new ACAS Code of Practice is expected to be published, which will set out ‘good practice‘ for employers when considering applications, with rejections again being based around the requirements of the business. Whilst this relaxation is good news, employees will be able to assert an employer has been unreasonable if their application is rejected or if they think it has taken too long to consider their request. Penalties will include possible orders to reconsider the application and an award of up to 8 weeks’ pay. However, the employee may also resign claiming constructive dismissal or discrimination.
Employers are strongly advised to follow the ACAS Code before there is definitive case law in this area, consult properly with employees on their requests and to keep comprehensive records of how they arrived at any decision.
As soon as the ACAS Code is published, it will be a good idea to look to review your company’s policies around flexible working, especially if they are currently contractual. Your new policy should comply with this Code to minimise the risk of employment disputes developing but should not tie you in to protracted procedures that may not be warranted going forward.