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New rules on flexible working

30th June 2014
New rules come into force from the 30th June 2014 concerning the right to request flexible working arrangments at work.

The previous rules, which still apply to any request made before the 30th June 2014, only gave the right to request flexible working arrangements to those employees that had children under the age of 17 (or 18 in the case of any disabled child), or had certain caring responsibilities (such as for an elderly dependant parent).

From the 30th June 2014 the right to request flexible working arrangements has been extended to cover any employee that has been continuously employed by his/her employer for at least 26 weeks. This is the sole basic requirement for eligibility.
It must be noted that the right is only to request flexible working arrangements, not to insist on such an arrangement. The employer is entitled to reject the request on a very broad set of grounds (some eight broad business grounds are listed). The same grounds for refusal that existed under the old rules will continue to apply to the new rules.

It is also important to note that there are some other requirements that an employee must meet under the new rules. Only one request can be made by an employee in any period of 12 months, and the request must be in writing.

In general an Employment Tribunal will not be able to investigate the detailed reasons why any request has been turned down by an employer, but it can award up to 8 weeks pay (subject to a cap) when the employer has not followed the correct procedure in handling a request. Employers are required to deal with any request reasonably- although there is no definitive definition given for that. 

It remains vital for employers to realise that female employees requesting flexible working arrangements may also be able to rely on the law on indirect sex discrimination to protect them. Under that law there is no list of set grounds that an employer can rely on to reject a request for flexible working. The Employment Tribunals in such cases do have the right to examine the reasons for any refusal that an employer might give, and compensation in such cases is not limited to any statutory maximum. So employers should not assume that meeting the requirements of the statutory flexible working arrangement regulations will keep them safe from challenges to the rejection of all such requests. Employers and individuals should use any meeting to consider such a request as the opportunity to consider other options of flexible working if the one requested cannot be accommodated.

If you require any further advice or assistance on any matter raised in this article do not hesitate to contact us at Hallett Employment Law Services Ltd.      
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