Flexible working rights – what’s new as of 30th June 2014

At the beginning of this week we entered a new era of flexible working rights. Yet research from remote access software company, LogMeIn, has shown that only 29% of managers are aware of the changes that have come into effect.

It appears there is a lot of work to do yet to spread the message of what is and isn’t allowed so, to clarify, let’s talk through the main changes.

The biggest difference is that the right to make a flexible working request now applies to all staff (full-time or part-time) who meet the qualifying period of 26 weeks continuous service. Prior to 30th June this right only applied to parents with a child under the age of 17 (18, in the case of disability) or to those with caring responsibilities for adults. It should be pointed out that this remains a right to request only – employers have no statutory obligation to accept the flexible working request and can still, therefore, refuse them providing there is a legitimate business reason to do so.

The very strict time-tabled procedure that workers and employers previously had to adhere to when applying and responding to such a request has now been loosened.  Employers are now required to deal with requests in a ‘reasonable manner’ and within a three month period.  ACAS (The Advisory, Concilliation and Arbitration Service) have produced a useful Code of Practice on how this should be interpreted.  As with before, employees are only allowed to submit one flexible working request in a 12 month period.

A final change is that the employee no longer has a statutory right to appeal against the decision, and they no longer have a right of accompaniment to the meeting to discuss the request.  However, in both cases ACAS recommend consideration of these to be good practice.  If a request for flexible working is refused, the employee must make any claims to an employment tribunal within 3 months.

For anyone requiring more information on flexible working rights it is advised in the first instance that they refer to the relevant pages on the Gov.UK website or the ACAS website.

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