Earlier this year, a video that showed Professor Robert Kelly’s interview with the BBC being interrupted by his children bursting into his home office highlighted one of the funny sides of flexible working.
But there are still some myths about flexible working arrangements that leave employers feeling reticent about their use and employees being scared to broach the subject.
Myth 1: It is only available to parents and carers.
Since June 2014, flexible working is available to anyone who that meets the eligibility requirements.
To be eligible, the person making the application must:
· be an employee
· have a minimum of 26 weeks of continuous service with their employer
· have not made an application for flexible working during the last 12 months.
Myth 2: I cannot refuse a request for flexible working for a new mother.
Employees have a statutory right to request flexible working, but there is no right to flexible working. This means that new mothers have the right to ask, but they do not have an automatic right to demand that their hours are changed or reduced when they return to work.
Employers must, however, consider the request in a reasonable manner and can only refuse a request for a clear business reason.
When an employer receives an application, you may agree to the request without engaging in a thorough discussion. Alternatively, you can send them a written invitation to a meeting to discuss the request, see if there are other working patterns which could be explored and the pros, cons and costs of the change for the business. When you are considering the request, remember to not discriminate unlawfully against the employee.
Once you have made your decision, you must inform the employee promptly and in writing.
If you agree to the change, you should to confirm the start date of the change and you will need to amend the employee’s contract to cover this change. You will also need to think about the repercussions of the change. For example, if they are now working from home, have you thought about your Health & Safety obligations?
If you want to reject the application, you should make sure it is for one or more of the following business reasons:
• the burden of additional costs
• an inability to reorganise work amongst existing staff
• an inability to recruit additional staff
• detrimental impact on quality
• damaging impact on performance
• negative effect on ability to meet customer demand
• insufficient work for the periods the employee proposes to work
• a planned structural change to your business.
There is no statutory right to an appeal, but offering it is a good way to show that you have considered the request in a reasonable way. Unless agreed otherwise, the application should be dealt with, from start to finish, within a period of three months from first receipt.
Myth 3: Flexible working is basically working from home or working part-time.
In fact, it is broader than that.
Eligible employees can request to:
· change the hours they work (e.g. they want to work fewer hours)
· the times they are required to work (e.g. they wish to start at 10am rather than 9am)
· where they work (e.g. an employee wants to work from another site on Fridays).
Flexible working could mean job sharing, compressed hours, flexitime, staggered hours or annualised hours. Contact the British Sandwich Association Advisory Service for information about the different types of arrangements available and what best suits your business.
Myth 4: The employee can make the request orally.
The employee should submit a request in writing and it should be signed and dated.
The employee’s application should:
· clearly state that it is a request for flexible working
· say how they meet the eligibility conditions
· explain what the change they are applying for involves
· give a date which they would like the change to become effective
· give details of what impact, if any, the change will have on the employer
· state if they have made any applications in the past and if so, when.
Myth 5: Employees can make as many requests as they want. After all, there is no harm in asking!
They can only make one request in a 12 month period.