Flexible working warning

Businesses must prepare for changes to employment legislation which will see all staff given the right to request flexible working, an expert has warned.

Currently the law allows employees with children under 16, or disabled child under 18, and carers, to request flexible working. From June 30 this will change, giving any employee with more than 26 weeks’ service the right to request flexible working once every 12 months.

Now Charlotte Nuttall, solicitor in the employment team at Lancashire law firm Napthens, is warning that businesses must be prepared for the changes, and understand what they mean.

She said: “This is a significant change and one which presents a number of opportunities to both employers and their staff.

“The government has made this change because it believes that flexibility can work for both parties. Staff are likely to be more loyal if their employer works with them to change their working hours.

“Currently there is a strict statutory procedure which employers must go through when considering such a request, but the new regulations simplifies dealing with the request.

“This is fairly vague and to help, Acas has produced a code of practice which will be taken into account by employment tribunals if an employee is unhappy with the way their request has been dealt with.

“Therefore it is important for employers to understand their responsibilities. For instance, if there is no flexible working policy in place, a business should create one so managers have a clear forum in which to deal with requests and staff are aware of their rights.

“Employers should make every effort to consider the request fully – meeting with the staff member, considering the request in a non-discriminatory manner, and inform the staff member in writing as soon as possible. “By taking steps like this the risk of a complaint by a staff member and a costly employment tribunal can be greatly reduced.”