All employees have the legal right to request to work flexibly. This can range from requesting to work from home to asking to work flexible hours. Here, we outline areas that both employers and employees should consider when applying to work flexibly.
Please note that the rules regarding flexible working differ in Northern Ireland.
Submitting a written application to the employer
An employee must make an application to work flexibly in writing, and they must have worked for the employer for a minimum of 26 weeks. All applications must include details of how the employee will work flexibly; an explanation as to how the employee’s flexible working will affect the business; details of the date of the application; when they want to start working flexibly; and whether a previous application was made.
Making a decision within three months
The employer is obliged to consider the request and give a decision within three months, unless a longer period has been agreed with the employee. The employer must also allow for any appeals within the three-month timeframe.
Agreeing to the request
If the employer agrees to the flexible working request, they must put this in writing to the employee. The letter should state the changes that have been agreed, and when these will start. The employee’s contract also needs to be amended to reflect the new arrangements. All of these amendments must be made within the 28 days after the approval.
Rejecting the request
A specific reason for rejecting the request must be provided by the employer. This must fall under at least one of the following categories:
- the extra costs associated with flexible working will damage the business
- the work cannot be reorganised among other staff members
- people cannot be recruited to do the work
- the flexible working will affect the quality of work and employees’ performance
- the business will not be able to meet customer demand
- there is a lack of work to do during the proposed working times
- the business is planning changes to its workforce.
The rejection must be made in writing. The employee is entitled to appeal the decision by following their firm’s appeals procedure. However, if an employer failed to handle the employee’s request in a reasonable manner; dismissed the employee or treated them unfairly as a result of their request to work flexibly; rejected the application based on false information; or incorrectly treated the employee’s application as being withdrawn, then an employee can complain to an employment tribunal.
The tribunal claim must be made within three months of either hearing the employer’s decision; hearing that the request has been withdrawn; or from the date the employer was required to respond but failed to do so.
Keeping abreast of the rules and regulations relating to flexible working is essential.
Please note: This article is a commentary on general principles and should not be interpreted as advice for your specific situation.