Flexible working could include reducing hours of work, changing work patterns, entering into a job share arrangement, working from home, etc. As part of the application for flexible working, the employee needs to explain what effect, if any, the change requested would have on the employer and how they believe it could best be dealt with. For instance, if requesting part-time hours, they could identify that there will be a lack of cover on the days they would not work and suggest that this could be dealt with by recruiting another part-time employee to cover those hours.
The employer must meet with the employee to discuss their request in a timely manner (unless they are happy to make the change requested). If the employer feels they may not be able to accommodate the requested change, they should explore any possible compromises. The employer should inform the employee of their decision as soon as possible, it is sensible for this to be conveyed in writing.
Much of the procedural requirements have been removed by the new legislation - the prescriptive timetable, the statutory right to be accompanied at meetings, and the right to an appeal. Instead the employer needs to "...deal with the application in a reasonable manner" and to ensure that whatever process they follow, it is completed within three months of receipt of the application (including any appeal if granted by the employer). However, in order to demonstrate reasonableness, it is sensible to retain some of the previous statutory provisions in an internal procedure and a new ACAS Code of Practice recommends that you do so.
We would suggest, therefore, that you should continue to allow the employee to be accompanied by a work colleague at any meetings and have the right to appeal if their request is rejected.
We would recommend that the reason for turning down a request is made clear in writing and you must ensure that it falls within one of the following categories:
- the burden of additional costs
- an inability to reorganise work amongst existing staff
- an inability to recruit additional staff
- a detrimental impact on quality
- a detrimental impact on performance
- detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand
- insufficient work for the periods the employee proposes to work
- a planned structural change to the business
Any agreed change is normally permanent, unless the employer and employee agree a temporary arrangement or to have a trial period. Also employees can not make more than one statutory request for flexible working in any 12 month period.