Earlier this year, The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills gave 20 million people the right to request flexible working hours from their employer. The new legislation was implemented on the 30th June 2014, meaning that employees who have worked for the same employer for at least 26 months are eligible to request flexible working hours, which was welcomed by union and employment groups.
Even with this new law in place, employers can still refuse their employees flexible working hours. However, they must deal with requests in a reasonable manner. So, what does this mean for people who want to request flexible working hours and have a reasonable excuse to do so?
Why work flexibly?
We conducted a survey and found that over 40 percent of people (41.3 percent to be precise) who had already or were planning to request flexible working hours were doing so for childcare reasons. Such reasons included babysitting, the school run, and general school activities and meetings.
Therefore, the percentage of people who want or plan to request flexible working are parents, which is higher than any other reason given; the second most popular reason being medical issues, at 16.5 percent.
However, before the flexible working law was brought in, parents (and carers) could, for example, still request early starts, early finishes and four-day weeks. But what does this mean for parents and the businesses they work for? Long has it been the case that there has been a bit of a taboo about flexibly working mums.
Even though the top reason for requesting flexible working hours is parental commitments, will we now see a rise in more people in general wanting to work flexibly for a variety of reasons? If this is the case, then we could well see the flexibly working mum taboo slowly succumbing to erosion, as we all start to benefit from 21st century working.
Pros and cons
The benefits of working flexible hours might be obvious for the employee in question, but how does the business benefit too? It might seem apparent that businesses in fact don’t benefit when certain employees are working flexibly, so let’s delve into some of the potential pros and cons.
It may be that not all employees can work remotely, so each case has to be considered individually. This takes time, and if the person in question wants to book different flexi-days each week, then this can also potentially be time consuming.
Conversely, there are a number of positive effects for businesses such as improved staff retention, higher productivity rates and simply happier workers. After all, a worker is bound to be happier if they’re allowed to improve their work/life balance by spending more time with their children. Incidentally, this was actually the third highest clear reason given in response to our survey.
Asking for it
So how does an employee go about requesting flexible working? The technical term is ‘making a statutory application’ and includes four main steps:
1. The employee writes to the employer
2. The employer considers the request and makes a decision within three months – or longer if agreed with the employee
3. If the employer agrees to the request, they must change the terms and conditions in the employee’s contract
4. If the employer disagrees, they must write to the employee giving the business reasons for the refusal. The employee may be able to complain to an employment tribunal
More information is available here: https://www.gov.uk/flexible-working/applying-for-flexible-working