Q&A Can employees request flexible working to pursue social interests?

Q:      I run a small manufacturing business with 8 employees. Demand for my products has remained steady these past three years, but with costs rising for raw materials and energy I will need to run a tight ship to survive, and that means everyone working the same hours to keep machine running times to a minimum. However, two workers have recently asked to change their hours to fit in with their social activities. Do I even have to consider this?

A:       Under the Flexible Working Rights legislation, all employees with at least 26 weeks’ service - not just parents and carers - are now entitled to request flexible working. Further, the reason is no longer restricted to, for example, doing school run or starting later because of having to care for someone at home who cannot get themselves up in the morning. Now, everyone has a right to request flexible working, for any reason.

As an employer, you have a duty to consider such a request, although you no longer need to follow a statutory procedure. So, you don’t have to follow the old rules of holding a meeting with the employee within 28 days of receiving their request, and you now have up to three months to make your decision.

You must, however, deal with flexible working requests in a ‘reasonable manner’. This includes assessing the advantages and disadvantages of the application, holding a meeting to discuss the request with the employee, and offering an appeal process. If you do not handle the request in a reasonable manner, you will be leaving yourself open to being taken to an employment tribunal.

Employers can refuse an application if they have a good business reason for doing so, and in your case, it sounds as though you do have good reason to refuse. An employment solicitor can advise you on the procedure and also help you draw up a flexible working policy.

This question has been answered by James Denton, a Solicitor with GHP Legal.  If you would like to speak to someone about this or any other legal matter it is still possible, and we are doing everything we can to ensure that we continue to offer our high levels of service to our clients.  Where possible, we ask that you communicate with us by phone or email. If you have a new enquiry or for an appointment visit www.ghplegal.com or contact one of our offices: Wrexham 01978 291456, Llangollen 01978 860313, Oswestry 01691 659194 

James Denton

James Denton

Solicitor

Solicitor in our Civil Litigation team in the Oswestry and Wrexham offices.