Currently, only employees with children under 17 (or disabled children under 18) and those with responsibilities as carers have a right to request flexible working.
Under new measures, however, any employee with 26 weeks’ continuous service can ask to work flexibly for any reason, whether it’s taking up a further education course, combining work with caring for the grandchildren, or simply wanting to spend less time at work.
Eligible employees will be able to request a change to working hours, working time or work location.
Employment law specialist Melissa Nelson, a solicitor at law firm Furley Page, says that the amended Children and Families Act 2014 removes the prescriptive statutory procedure for dealing with requests, replacing it with a duty on employers to deal with requests in a ‘reasonable manner’ and to notify employees of their decision within three months, unless an extension is agreed.
‘The complexity of the current procedure has come in for a lot of criticism so the relaxation of this process will certainly ease the administrative burden on employers,’ she adds.
‘Also, while more employees will be able to request flexible working, it doesn’t mean they have the right to have that request granted. Similar principles are likely to apply when considering requests received and the grounds for refusing remain the same.’
Employers will still be able to reject requests if there are legitimate business reasons for doing so; for example, if it would lead to additional costs for the company, affect its ability to meet customer demand or have a detrimental impact on the company’s performance.
The new flexible working rule is one of several ‘family-friendly’ changes in the pipeline over the next 12 months says Nelson.
From October 1st 2014 a prospective father or a mother’s partner can take unpaid time off to attend up to two antenatal appointments, while from April 5th 2015 parents of newly born or newly adopted babies, and in some cases a mother and her partner, will be allowed to share a combined total of up to 52 weeks of parental leave and 39 weeks of statutory pay between them.