From 30 June 2014 the Flexible Working Regulations 2014 will introduce new eligibility requirements for flexible working requests.

Under the new provisions the main changes are as follows:

  • Flexible working requests can be made by all employees (excluding agency workers) with at least 26 weeks continuous employment.  Flexible working requests are no longer limited to those seeking to care for disabled children or children meeting certain criteria.
  • Employers are now required to deal with flexible working request applications in a “reasonable manner”.  The previous provisions, which required employers to follow a prescribed procedure, has been replaced with a more flexible and open approach which requires employers to deal with requests in a “reasonable manner”.
  • There is a revised ACAS Code which explains what it means to deal with applications in a reasonable manner.  It is intended that Tribunals will take the ACAS Code into account when deciding the question of whether an application has or has not been dealt with in a reasonable manner.
  • Employers have a 3 month period within which to consider a request, discuss the request with the employee, notify the employee of the outcome and deal with any appeal.

Applications to the Employment Tribunal

The grounds, including the revisions are now as follows:

  • An employer’s failure to deal with the application in a reasonable manner.
  • An employer’s failure to notify the employee of the outcome of their application within the decision period.
  • Failure by the employer to rely on 1 of the statutory grounds when refusing the request for flexible working.
  • An employer bases its decision on incorrect facts or treats an employee’s application as dismissed without proper grounds for doing so.

The ACAS Code recommends that:

  • Requests are dealt with by the employers with the employees in a private place.
  • Employees are allowed to be accompanied to any meetings including any appeal
  • If an employee fails to attend a meeting or any subsequent meeting without proper explanation the Flexible Working Application can be deemed to be withdrawn.
  • Employers consider requests carefully by looking at the benefits of requests in the context of the impact on the working conditions of the employee as against any adverse impact on the business.  Requests are dealt with promptly.
  • Where more than 1 employee makes a request for flexible working the requests should be dealt with by the employer in the order in which they are received and that a right of appeal should be provided.

Points to Note for Employers

As always, Employers should be mindful that they do not commit acts of discrimination when dealing with flexible working requests. Employers’ policies, procedures and handbooks should be updated to reflect the new changes.

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