This Insight is #6 in our Employment Handbook series, keep an eye out for more.
Flexible Working Policy in the UK: A Guide for Employers
Flexible working is an arrangement that benefits an employee’s needs, such as having flexible start and finish times, or working remotely. All employees have the legal right to request flexible working.
Flexible working can help employees to better balance their work and home life, as well as improve their overall wellbeing. It can also help to increase productivity and motivation and reduce absenteeism and stress levels.
Some businesses however, will be less concerned with how their employees look because what they wear does not impact the brand image.
Flexible Working Policy Options for Employees & Employers
Employees who’ve been continuously employed by a UK employer for 26 weeks or more can make a flexible working request providing they haven’t previously made another formal request during the last 12 months.
The employee can ask to change their working arranges and this can include changes such as:
- A change to their working hours.
This could be a request to work flexibly so they can start later or finish earlier and then make up the time by starting earlier or finishing later.
- A reduction or variation of the days they must work.
This could be a request to work annualized hours; to work term time only; to work compressed hours so that they’re working the same number of hours over fewer days
- Change the location from which they work.
They could ask to work from home for part or all of their time. They can also ask to work from another workplace, such as different premises owned by their employer
Such changes don’t mean that they reduce their working hours. Although the changes can include those elements, they can be more nuanced than that.
How Employers Should Handle a Flexible Working Request
If an employee makes a formal written request for flexible hours, the employer must consider the request and make their decision within three months of the request being made.
However, the three-month time frame can be extended if both the employee and the employer agree.
Employers need to follow a process before they make their decision, and this process includes meeting with the employee to discuss the request.
Following the meeting, the employer must let the employee know whether they’ve accepted their request or rejected it. If they accept the request, they can ask for it to be subject to a trial period of up to three months. If they don’t accept the request, they can do this outright or they can propose an alternative form of flexible working.
If the request is accepted or an alternative is agreed upon, the employee’s terms of employment will be permanently varied. This means that unless the parties agree otherwise, the employee doesn’t have the right to revert back to their previous working arrangement.
An employer can only reject a request based on one of the eight business reasons.
If they reject the request, they must tell their employee which of the eight business reasons for rejection apply. The statutory scheme doesn’t require the employer to give the employee a right to appeal, but it’s safer if they do.
If an employer fails to follow the statutory procedure, an Employment Tribunal can order that the employer reconsiders their decision and order an award of compensation of up to eight weeks’ pay which is subject to the statutory cap (this changes each year).
In addition, employers should be careful not to discriminate against an employee if they refuse a request as this can lead to a much larger award of compensation being made by a tribunal.
Your responsibility as an Employer
As a matter of law employers must give employees employment contracts which cover the key terms of the employment relationship, but the contract won’t cover all of the policies, procedures and expectations for the relationship between a business and the people within it. A employee handbook can include information for all team members, including employees, workers, apprentices and agency staff. Not only can a employee handbook bring together useful guidance for everyone on the culture, values and expectations the business as but it will often be a resource that can save a dispute from arising or provide the best framework for resolving a dispute. The non-contractual policies and procedures that can be included in a employee handbook will sit alongside contracts of employment to set out how employees are expected to act and how the employer will deal with certain situations.
Putting all the policies and procedures together in one place that is accessible to everyone working in a business is good practice and can provide an invaluable framework for reference on all of the HR issues to cover. If any grievance or dispute arises, having a policy or procedure to refer to and follow can help prevent the situation escalating. If the worst occurs and a claim comes before a tribunal, being able to show the policies and procedures that were followed can make a huge difference to the outcome.
Flexible working is a key element to the way that many businesses in the UK run after trialling it during the COVID-19 period. If your business utilizes hybrid working, you should get a Flexible Working Policy. For more information get in touch with our Employment Law team today on 0330 912 8338.
© Atkins Dellow LLP 2022
© Atkins Dellow LLP 2022
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