Flexible working and the Right to Request for all

23 January 2014

The government has announced that the new rules which will allow all employees to be able to request flexible working, will be in force by autumn 2014.

The government's flexible working proposals intend to extend the statutory right to request flexible working to all employees by autumn 2014.

The changes mean employees employed for at least 26 weeks by the same employer will be able to make one request in a 12 month period to work flexibly.

There are many different types of flexible working, ranging from part-time working, compressed hours or just varying start and finish times. Benefits to businesses adopting flexible working include access to a wider pool of skills and talents in the workforce, increased productivity and improved recruitment and retention rates.

Research by the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills estimates in their Impact Assessment that the anticipated benefits to business include:

  • Higher productivity (£36.8m);
  • Lower labour turnover (£8.4m), and
  • Reduced absenteeism (£1.4m).

Acas has published the responses to its consultation on a new Code of Practice. The consultation asked employers for their views on the draft Code and good practice guidance to help manage flexible working requests.

A new revised draft Code of Practice has been published and also the following guide for employers:

Acas has made a number of changes to the Code following the consultation including:

  • Additional detail in paragraph 3 of the Code on the information required to make a flexible working request.
  • Removing the term "presumptions of approval" which some respondents felt was misleading in applicants believing their approval was almost certain, but emphasising the importance of careful examination of requests and the fact that they can be rejected only on the basis set out in legislation/justifiable reasons for rejection.

Respondents identified six common themes which they would like to see in the accompanying good practice guidance:

  • how to handle multiple requests, prioritisation issues and being fair
  • avoiding discrimination in deciding a request
  • providing an explanation of the business reasons that are to be considered in requests - what do they mean, with examples
  • refusing a request and giving how much information to divulge
  • appeals against refusal and guidance on managing this process
  • how to use trial periods and reviews after agreeing a change to check out if a flexible working request is feasible.

It is intended that the right to work flexibly will be introduced as part of the Children and Families Bill which is expected to receive royal assent by the end of January 2014. The new Code of Practice will then be brought in, hopefully by April 2014.