Flexible Working Request Regulations Updated With effect from 30th June 2014 every employee now has the statutory right to request flexible working. All they need is just 26 weeks service with the employer. Before June 2014, the right was only offered to carers and parents (with 6 months service, who had children under 17 years of age or 18 years if they were disabled). Employers in Early Years should ensure that they have an up to date Flexible Working Request Policy. Flexible working requests are common in Early Years and are often made by women on maternity leave, planning their return to work. As maternity leave requests are so popular. Let’s just clarify a few points on maternity leave:
- Maternity leave is expected to last 52 weeks and the employee can return without notice after that time.
- If returning at any time prior to 52 weeks e.g. after 39 weeks (when the SMP finishes) they should give 8 weeks’ notice of their intention to return to work.
Requests are just that, requests. There is no right to flexible working. In particular it is worth stressing that full time women on maternity leave, have no right to return part time following maternity leave. They can ask, and the employer must give the request due consideration. With requests, it is reasonable to expect that:
- Requests will be dated and made in writing (email or letter is fine) to the individuals Manager stating the change to their terms and conditions they seek and the date they would like the change to take effect.
- Employers will decide on a request and give the employee the right of appeal.
- That requests and appeals will all be dealt with within 3 months of the original request.
- Only one request is made in a 12 month period.
- For the employee to describe how they think the change would affect the employer and whether the change would be positive or negative. If negative it would be reasonable for the employee to consider what could done to mitigate the impact of the change.
Employers should arrange a meeting to discuss the request in detail with the employee. We recommend that the meeting happens within 14 days of the original request as per the previous version of the Flexible Working Request Regulations. We also recommend that employers allow the employee to be accompanied by a work colleague or Trade Union Representative as the meeting will be discussing a permanent change to the employee’s terms and conditions of employment. This is seen as good practice. There are 8 reasons in the regulations that an employer can reject an eligible flexible working request:
- Burden of additional costs
- Inability to reorganise work amongst the existing staff
- Inability to recruit additional staff
- Detrimental impact on quality
- Detrimental impact on performance
- Detrimental effect on the ability to meet customers demand (i.e. ratios)
- Insufficient work for the period the employee proposes to work.
- A planned structural change to the business.
A paper trial is very important when dealing with Flexible Working Requests. We recommend you date stamp the letter you receive from the employee. In addition that you send any correspondence to an absent employee (i.e. one on maternity or sick leave) by first class recorded post and that emails are printed and placed on the personnel file. Try and deal with the request in a prompt reasonable fashion. The government says requests should be addressed within 3 months, that’s a long time in employment. Would you want to wait 3 months for a conclusion of the request? You can determine your own timescales in your Flexible Working Request Policy. Meetings should have minutes produced by someone who is happy to take good quality notes. If your employee requests a copy of these minutes, share them; you have nothing to hide. When dealing with a request, keep someone out of the decision making process who can hear any appeal. We appreciate in a very small setting that that can be hard to achieve, we can help and provide a HR Consultant to hear your appeal if you need. When communicating that a meeting has been scheduled, that an outcome has been reached, that an appeal has been received or that an appeal outcome has been determine, always write to the employee rather than send an email or speak on the phone.
For more top tips when managing employees check out our facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/HRforearlyyears
If you would like assistance with any aspect of HR or employment law please contact us on 01527 909436