New legislation comes into force on 30 June 2014. This expands, and allegedly simplifies, the current right to request flexible working. To bend with the times employers need to know what difference the changes will make. The simple answer is probably not a lot!
There will still be no “right” to work flexibly or part-time. The amendments expand the category of employees who may make a request and remove some of the strict timeframes on both parties as to when requests must be made, considered, refused and appealed.
A legitimate Right to Request is currently limited to employees with 26 weeks continuous service seeking a variation to their contractual working patterns in order to care for children under 17 (18 if the child is disabled) or adults who need care.
From 30 June 2014, the Right to Request will differ in the following material ways:
The eight statutory grounds for refusing an application will remain the same:
Under both regimes a Tribunal cannot question the subjective business reasons behind an employer’s decision. Scrutiny remains limited to:
Remedies available in the Tribunal also remain limited to ordering the employer to reconsider the application and/or awarding compensation of up to 8 weeks pay (capped at £464 per week).
But beware – the interrelationship with more potent claims for sex discrimination – damages are unlimited. However, applicants refused flexible working where they have no caring responsibilities may be harder pressed to establish discrimination.
Advice on flexible working policies, dealing with requests in a reasonable manner and claims is available from the Employment Team at Raworths.