are you ready for this? over a quarter of all employees are planning to make flexible working applications

As I reported last month the right to request flexible working is extended to most employees with effect from 30 June 2014. According to a YouGov survey of over 2000 adults carried out for Croner 26% of UK workers plan to do so. However research by Timewise suggests that as many as two in five employees want to work fewer hours or remotely, in addition to the 25% of employees who already work part time (8.18 million currently work 30 or fewer hours per week). In the longer term 70% of employees say that they want to work flexibly at some point in the future.

There is a significant disparity in the availability of part time work between junior and senior posts. 43% of advertised jobs open to flexible working are junior or entry level whereas only 9% of leadership roles and 14% of directorship roles offer flexibility. One of the problems facing applicants for flexible working is that there is a common perception still held by managers that this demonstrates a lack of ambition or less commitment, particularly in SMEs.

This manifests itself in the concern expressed by applicants for flexible working. The Timewise survey revealed that 42% of people who need flexibility worry about when to ask about it in the recruitment process and 52% feel nervous or very nervous about doing so.

From the employers’ perspective research conducted for Weber Shandwick revealed that 11% think that the changes will have a positive effect, 21% a negative effect and 64% think it will make no difference, while 4% don’t know. However 9 in 10 employers say that they welcome questions about flexible working.

Significantly, 75% of employers say that they have had no training on how to deal with flexible working applications.

right to request flexible working extended to most employees

Most employers are familiar with the procedure to be applied when dealing with flexible working applications which have been around, on a legislative basis, since 2003. Initially the right to request flexible was confined to the parents of children under six or of disabled children under 18.

In 2007 the right was extended to carers of adults and in 2011 to parents of children under 18. With effect from 30 June 2014 the right is extended to all employees who have 26 weeks’ continuous employment at the time the application is made. Only one application per year may be made.

As a result, now is a good time to recap the key elements of fairly handling a request for flexible working. The first thing to bear in mind is that the entitlement is to request flexible working rather than an entitlement to flexible working on request. Nonetheless, employers must take request for flexible working seriously. What does that mean in practice? If an application is refused then the employer may be required to justify the decision, both in terms of the steps taken to consider it and the substantive reason for rejection.

According to the ACAS draft guidelines valid reasons for rejection may include:

Burden of additional costs
Inability to reorganise work among existing staff
Inability to recruit additional staff
Detrimental impact on quality
Detrimental impact on performance
Detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand
Insufficient work for the periods the employee proposes to work
Planned structural change to the business

However, employers should bear in mind that it is not enough to give the reason; if called upon to do so the employer may be required to justify the reason.

flexible work requests and flexible parental leave

I’ve mentioned pending changes to flexible work requests and flexible parental leave over the last few months and it seems that the details are now finalised. Already implemented are the following:
– The right to request flexible work is extended to employed agency workers returning from maternity/paternity leave;
– Unpaid parental leave is increased to 18 weeks for each child.
The Children and Families Bill 2013, which recently has its second reading in the Commons, implements further changes to:
– Allow parents to share maternity leave (after the first 2 weeks’ compulsory leave) as parental leave, which will be paid, subject to the same qualification rules as for maternity and paternity pay. The Department for Business Innovation and Skills has launched a consultation on how the new right will be administered, looking at issues like whether the one year period will run from the beginning of maternity leave or the birth of the child, and how employees should give notice to end maternity leave and pay where they propose to share leave.

extension of flexible working rights

The Government has made clear for some time its intention to extend the right to request flexible working to most employees rather than just those who having caring responsibilities.

In September 2010 the Department for Business Innovation and Skills announced an intention to extend flexible working rights to all parents of children under 18 from April 2011 (covering a further 300,000 employees) and plans to roll out the rights to all employees. Extension of the rights would be accompanied with a new and simplified system for requesting parental leave.

However the April 2011 change was postponed. The reason given by the Government was the economic climate but it was made clear that the widening of entitlement remained firmly on its agenda (in accordance with the Coalition Agreement).

consultation on modern workplaces – flexible working arrangements

The Government issued its BIS "Modern Workplaces Consultation" on 16 May 2011. One of the topics covered is "Flexible Working". Consultation closes on 8 August 2011. The paper gives examples (with explanations) of "flexible work" as follows: part-time; flexi-time; compressed hours; homeworking; annualised hours; term-time working; structured time off in lieu; job-sharing; and varied-hours working…

consultation on modern workplaces – parental rights

The Government issued its BIS "Modern Workplaces Consultation" on 16 May 2011 . One of the topics covered is "Flexible Parental Leave". Consultation closes on 8 August 2011. In bare outline, the main elements in the “flexible parental leave” part of the proposals are : Initial leave rights (around the birth/adoption of a child): Maternity…

newsletter – right to request flexible working

The Coalition government has announced two “family friendly” employment law proposals, following a commitment in the Coalition’s “programme for government” which stated: We will extend the right to request flexible working to all employees, consulting with business on how best to do so” and “We will encourage shared parenting from the earliest stages of pregnancy including…

the coalition government and employment law

Our newsletter last month outlined employment law related proposals in the General Election manifestos of each of the three main political parties. Now of course these have no direct relevance. Instead the new Coalition Government Agreement states that there will be a review of “employment and workplace laws, for employers and employees, to ensure they…