Flexible working will become mainstream

September 22, 2015

Flexible working changes – It’s actually good news!  I can confidently say that because we are a business that has GROWN in the era of flexible working and by giving employees personalised work patterns.

You’ll all be aware that in June 2014 flexible working procedures were extended to allow ALL employees (well, all those with at least 26 weeks service) to request a change to their working pattern.  Previously, only employees who had children under the age of 17 (or 18 in the case of a disabled child) or employees who were carers had the right to request flexibility.

As a small business owner myself, I can appreciate that these changes may bring an initial feeling of dread and anxiety with regards to the functioning of your business:

  • How can we make sure that operational requirements are not being affected by this change?!
  • We do not have the funds to offer more employee’s flexible working contracts!

But, there’s absolutely NO NEED TO WORRY!  You don’t have to accept a flexible working request if there are clear business reasons for rejecting them.  And, in a small business environment (particularly) it really isn’t difficult to justify the reasons why you’re simply not able to accept these requests.  If an employee understands why your business reasons for rejection are relevant and justified, they are more likely to accept the outcome; and providing that their request is listened to and a reasonable procedure is followed, they should be satisfied that you have considered their application seriously, even if it isn’t the outcome they wanted.

So, how can you make sure that a rejection of such a request is justified?  Simply make sure that your business reason for doing so falls within at least one of the eight permitted grounds that have been put in place:

1. The burden of additional costs
2. Detrimental effect of ability to meet customer demand
3. Inability to reorganise work amongst existing staff
4. Inability to recruit additional staff
5. Detrimental impact on the employee’s performance
6. Insufficiency of work during the periods the employee proposes to work
7. Planned structural changes
8. Detrimental impact on performance

By ensuring that your rejection is justified, you are minimising the potential for a successful appeal of your decision, because of course, they do have the right to appeal your outcome!  But, providing that your reasons are substantial and you have followed a due process, there’s nothing to worry about!  And remember, an employee can only make one flexible working request every 12 months!

And most importantly, don’t forget the POSITIVES!  Whilst this seemingly ‘scary’ change to the law appears to allow all your employees to come and go as they please, the reality really is NOT that.  Moreover, there are a number of positives.  As long as you always consider how their request will affect the business alongside how it will benefit them personally, it can be a positive step towards you being a flexible employer.  In its impact assessment on the rollout of flexible working to all employees, the government estimates that in its first 10 years the new policy will bring overall economic benefits of about £475m.  Most of that, they think, will come from increased productivity, lower labour turnover, and reduced absenteeism… so let’s enjoy that!

The following blogs also demonstrate the shift to flexible work patterns across multiple industries:

Traditional law firm embraces agile working philosophy
Schools must consider double shifting to accommodate growing pupil numbers

Leeds based HR180 is a team of superheroes in HR Outsourcing, Projects and Consultancy committed to work in partnership with organisations of all sizes to establish working policies to go above and beyond Employment Law requirements, to protect both employees and employers alike. We love to hear from you, so call us on 0113 287 8150 or hit the Rescue Me button.

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