flexible-workingAs 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.
Tribunals have the power to order an employer to reconsider an application for flexible working and to award compensation of up to eight weeks’ pay. More significantly, unreasonable refusal can lead to a claim of constructive unfair dismissal. Particular care needs to be taken when dealing with applicants returning from maternity leave. In these cases rejection of applications can be regarded as maternity related and therefore discriminatory.

Our Employment Solutions subscribers have the benefit of access to expert employment lawyers to guide them through the entire process. We find that many applicants regard rejection as unfair because other employees have their requests granted. However each case should be considered on its own merits. The key point is that the process must be documented from start to finish and our procedures ensure that this is the case.