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Client Question: ‘An employee has asked to work different hours to spend more time with his family. This seems like a good idea but what are my obligations?’
We get this type of question quite a lot because these days there’s more emphasis on business to allow employees to achieve balance in their work and private lives.
Employees have the right to request flexible working if they have worked continuously for you for at least 26 weeks. Flexible working could include part time, working from home, compressed hours, flexitime, annualised hours, staggered hours and phased retirement.
Flexible work can have advantages to employers and it also supports employee engagement, morale, and retention. But flexible work must operate to meet the needs of the business. Applications can be rejected if there are one or more specific grounds. These are: the burden of additional costs; damaging effect on the ability to meet customer demand; inability to reorganise work among existing staff; inability to recruit additional staff; detrimental impact on quality; damaging impact on performance; insufficiency of work during the periods the employee proposes to work; and planned structural changes.
You must deal with requests in a reasonable manner, assessing the advantages and disadvantages of the application and holding a meeting to discuss the request with the employee. A decision should usually be made within 3 months and there should be an opportunity to appeal.
Special care should be taken if a request for flexible working is made by an employee with a disability. Refusal of a such a request might be a failure to make reasonable adjustments for that employee in breach of the Equality Act 2010. Similarly you need to be careful that you are not discriminating against the applicant due to another protected characteristic such as sex.