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Employment Law

Flexible Working Arrangements

Flexible working is becoming ever more popular, with benefits for both employers and employees. Our employment solicitors can help you set up flexible working policies, respond to flexible working requests from your staff, and follow all legal requirements.

There are certain guidelines you must follow when responding to flexible working requests and introducing a flexible working policy to your business. Failure to do so could lead to costly and time-consuming discrimination claims against you or your business.

Our flexible working solicitors can help you make flexible working arrangements work for your business. We’ll use our expertise and experience to help you put in place flexible working policies and manage requests from your employees.

What Is The Law Surrounding Flexible Working?

Any employee who has worked for you for 26 weeks or more has the legal right to request flexible working arrangements such as:

  • Working part-time
  • A job share (where two people split the hours of one job)
  • Working during school term time only
  • Working from home.

There can be benefits in extending your flexible working policy to cover all of your employees, including those with less than 26 weeks’ service, and self-employed workers. If you don’t, you may risk a discrimination claim from employees who would like to work flexibly due to caring responsibilities.

Our employment solicitors can help you draft and implement a flexible working policy tailored to your business. We can also check existing policies to make sure they are legally compliant, fair and include all your workers, from permanent employees to self-employed individuals.

How Do Flexible Working Requests Work?

There is a legal process you should follow if your employees request flexible working. ACAS (the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) has published a Code of Practice that you can help you manage the process.

Dealing with flexible working requests generally involves the following steps:

  1. An eligible employee submitting a request in writing
  2. Meeting with your employee to discuss their request if you need to
  3. Approving, rejecting or suggesting a different arrangement to their request within three months of the request being made
  4. Starting the flexible arrangement on a trial period to see how it goes
  5. Offering an appeal if the employee is unhappy with the outcome of their request.

If you accept the request without a trial period, the employee’s contract will change permanently and they can’t change it back unless you agree.

One way an employee could change their contract would be put in another flexible working request, if you approve it. If you reject the request, you’ll need to give a reason why and your employee can appeal the decision.

You are legally required to allow employees one flexible working request per year, but you can allow more requests if you want.

Our solicitors have detailed knowledge of the legal requirements surrounding flexible working requests. We spend time getting to know your business to make sure your process works for you and your employees.

What Do Employers Need To Consider When Assessing A Flexible Working Request?

You should always follow the correct legal process and your own company policy for responding to flexible working requests.

Employees can challenge your decision if you refuse a request without a proper reason. In some cases they could bring a claim against you. The most common claims are that you haven’t followed the legal requirements in dealing with their request, and that you have indirectly discriminated against them by refusing their request.

It’s best to get legal advice if you’re unsure on how to respond to a request for flexible working. As well as advising on responding to the request, our team can refine your policy or help you draft a new one so you can stay legally compliant and protect your business against a legal claim.

When Can I Refuse A Flexible Working Request?

There are eight business reasons that allow you to reject a flexible working request:

  • Flexible working will increase your business costs
  • It will affect the business’ ability to meet customer demands
  • You can’t reorganise work among existing staff
  • You won’t be able to recruit more staff
  • It will affect the quality of your business
  • It will affect the performance of your business
  • There isn’t enough work at the times when the employee wants to work
  • A planned change to the structure of your business.

You must have evidence to back up your decision. It can be difficult to know what to use as evidence and how to put it together. Our lawyers can help you make sure you have everything you need to make sure your refusal doesn’t lead to a legal claim.

Why Choose Irwin Mitchell?

We offer our own employees a wide range of flexible working arrangements, as well as being experts in the legal issues surrounding flexible working. Our solicitors have experience in dealing with different types of scenarios where flexible working has worked for a business and where it hasn’t, and how to handle this.

Our team helps businesses of any size from big corporates to small SMEs implement, manage and respond to flexible working requests. We have the detailed legal knowledge to help you decide if a request will suit your business and how to avoid a legal claim if you have to refuse a request.

Our solicitors work alongside you to provide a bespoke service that suits your business and your employees. Contact our employment lawyers today and find out how we can help you. Call us on 0808 271 2602 or contact us online.

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