Q: As an employer of a small business I am concerned about the impact the new flexible working regulations might have on the business. As yet I have not received any requests from employees but I need to be prepared in case I do. I understand that employees no longer have to be a parent or carer to request flexible working hours, is this correct?
A: Yes it can be requested but it does not mean that it has to be granted. As from 30th June 2014 the right to request flexible working hours has been extended to all workers, not just those who are parents of children under 17 years of age or a disabled child under 18, and those who are carers. Further, employees can request a change to their working hours irrespective of the reason. They can make such a request once in a twelve month period and the change requested can relate to working hours, time or location. The most common expectation seems to be for workers to request that they work from home.
As an employer you would need to show you had considered any request in a ‘reasonable manner’ and provide the employee with a response within three months of the request being made. The request must be considered but it does not have to be granted. Within the Employment Rights Act there is provision for rejection on business grounds, for example if the changes to the employee’s working hours could jeopardise the smooth-running of the business and its profitability.
One concern is that the new legislation may lead to an increase in the number of grievances being brought by employees. Bearing this in mind, you should ensure that your flexible working policies are amended to reflect the extended right and that you manage any requests in what will be viewed as a fair way. Seek advice from an employment solicitor if necessary.