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Flexible working for the masses – the new statutory regime

A new statutory regime will apply to flexible working requests received after 30 June 2014.

In the drive to improve equality in the workplace, the Government is extending the right for employees to request flexible working and is abolishing the strict statutory framework requiring applications to be dealt with within certain deadlines.

Employers are going to need to understand the new rules and update their practices to ensure that all flexible working applications received on or after 30 June 2014 are dealt with according to the new regime.

Ward Hadaway’s employment law experts have produced a compliant flexible working policy and process flowchart for managers, which is easy to understand and use in practice.

We are offering the policy and process flowchart at a low fixed cost with the option of having qualified lawyers deliver associated training in-house. Read on for further details.

What’s changing?
The need for flexible working applications to be justified on the grounds that the employee has qualifying caring responsibilities is being abolished. Instead, the right to request flexible working is being extended to all employees with 26 weeks’ continuous service with their employer.

Provided that an employee with the requisite continuous service has not made another application within 12 months, they have the right to have their application considered by their employer in a “reasonable manner”.

The prescribed time limits for handling requests are being abolished from 30 June 2014 and instead employers will be required to act at each stage “as soon as possible”.

What does this mean for me?
Your flexible working policy, procedure, template letters and documentation are going to become outdated.

The statutory right to request flexible working (in respect of contractual hours of work, times of work and location) will be extended to most of your workforce. You will be required to deal with all applications reasonably and, in most cases, within three months from the date a request was made. However, you will have flexibility as to how you deal with each request.

Employers will still be able to refuse requests on the old statutory grounds (e.g. burden of additional costs, detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand, detrimental impact on performance, etc). However, you will still need to go through a reasonable process, including an appeal process if necessary.

Failure to comply with the statutory regime will lead to liability in any resulting employment tribunal claim.

What issues is this likely to create?
Traditionally requests have almost exclusively been skewed towards female workers seeking to work flexibly after maternity leave and dependent care.

The right does exist for men but in practice our experience shows this is the exception rather than the norm.

Under the new regulations, you are likely to continue to predominantly receive requests from female employees but you are also now likely to receive more requests from male employees for non-child and dependent care reasons (e.g. carrying out voluntary work, further education / training unrelated to role, travel and preference to work from home instead of attending the office everyday).

What should we do to comply?
In order to ensure that your business is complying with the new statutory regime (and not bound to comply with the old prescribed time limits contained in your policies and procedures), we recommend that you update your flexible working policy and procedure, template letters and documentation relating to the application process.

Ward Hadaway can provide you with our new flexible working policy and process flowchart at a fixed cost of £250 + VAT.

Alternatively, our experts can review and update your flexible working policies, procedures, template letters and supporting documentation at the same fixed cost.

We have also devised a very practical training session to ensure you and your team understand the new regime, can manage the transition between the old and new statutory procedures and implement your company’s own compliant policy and procedure.

We offer these training sessions at a fixed cost of £250 + VAT and with the option of us delivering directly to you in your offices.

How can I find out more?
For further information on this product, the changes to flexible working or your general employment / HR requirements, please get in touch.