The Flexible Working Regulations 2014 and Part 9 of the Children and Families Act 2014 come into force today, the 30th June 2014. This allows any employee with more than 26 weeks’ service the right to request flexible working for any reason as opposed to the previous right to request flexible working which only applied to those who cared for children under the age of 17 (or 18 if the child was disabled) or cared for adult dependants.
The old flexible working procedures were rather onerous on both employees and employers. This has been recognised and the old statutory procedure for dealing with a flexible working request will no longer apply for requests from 30 June 2014. However, employees will still need to follow a procedure when making a request and employers will be obliged to act ‘reasonably’ when dealing with requests. In addition, an employer can only reject a request under specific grounds and they will need to deal with the request, and any appeals, within 3 months of the request.
A new statutory ACAS code of practice has been introduced which relates to the duty on employers to deal with requests reasonably.
Employers should note that they can still be penalised if they fail to deal with the request for flexible working properly and they could be ordered to pay compensation of the equivalent of up to 8 weeks’ wages for any failures. Employers could also be at risk of claims for indirect sex and religious discrimination as well as disability discrimination relating to a failure to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ if they reject requests. An employer should therefore consider each case on its merits looking at the business case and taking into account the possible impact of refusing a request.
If you are an employee or an employer with a flexible working query, please do not hesitate to contact us for specialist advice.
Rachel O’Connell, Solicitor & Director, Just Employment Ltd.