flexible working

Responding to flexible working requests

Recent news of The Scottish Government announcing plans to pilot shorter working time, including the trial of a four-day working scheme, brings the already topical subject of flexible working further to the fore. The Scottish Government’s plans follow the reported success of of such schemes in Iceland and New Zealand. In this article we look at the considerations to make when responding to flexible working requests.

Research suggests 87% of UK workers stating they would like to work flexibly post-pandemic, but currently only employees who have been employed by the same employer for 26 weeks are entitled to submit a flexible working request. 

Tulip Saddiq, introduced The Flexible Working Bill in June of this year, proposing to “give workers the right to flexible working from the first day of employment”. Though a second reading of the bill isn’t due until 19th November 2021, we’ve outlined what the current legislation says, and the process for handling flexible working requests:

Flexible working

Flexible working gives employees some flexibility as to where, when, how long and what time they work. The arrangement can take many forms and can be formal or informal – but does often require changes to be made to employment contracts.

The right to request flexible working

Currently, any employee with more than 26 weeks’ service has a right to request flexible working for any reason, and employers must deal with the request in a reasonable manner. Employees must submit the request in writing, and can only do so once every 12 months.

Employers must notify the employee of the outcome, including details of how to appeal a decision, within a three-month time period. It’s important to note that employers can choose to reject an application if it meets one or more of the business grounds specified here.

Remote working

Having spent the last 18 months working from home, it may be more difficult for employers to demonstrate why there will be a detrimental impact on performance when an employee is working remotely. However, this doesn’t rule out all legitimate business reasons for rejecting a flexible working request.

For some businesses, teams not working together ‘physically’ may not be viable long-term. For others, roles may not be compatible with remote working, or perhaps the business has seen a genuine dip in quality and performance since working from home.

Whatever your decision, make sure to consider the request carefully and communicate with your employees to explain the decision-making process and any factors that led to the outcome.

Before deciding on any requests, it will be worthwhile to consider any non-contractual changes that could help employees to work more flexibly, and around their other commitments outside of work.

To speak to a member of the hr inspire team today to find out about responding to flexible working requests, please contact us here.

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