Common examples of flexible working include working from home, part-time working, flexi-time, compressed hours, job sharing and shift working.

Under previous rules, the right to request flexible working was limited to those with children under the age of 17 (or 18 if the child was disabled) and carers.

On 30th June 2014, the right to request flexible working was extended to all employees with 26 weeks’ continuous employment.

Right to request flexible working

As with the previous rules, the right to request remains just that, a right to request; an employer may refuse a request on the basis of 1 of 8 specific business grounds and an employee is limited to one request in any 12 month period.

However, an employer is under a duty to consider the request of an eligible employee (i.e. any employee with over 26 weeks’ continuous service) in a reasonable manner.

This will include reviewing the potential pros and cons of the proposal, holding a meeting to discuss the application and allowing the employee an opportunity to appeal.

The employer will need to conclude the process and notify the employee of the decision within 3 months of the date of the application.

Failure to comply with their obligations under the new rules could result in compensation of 8 weeks’ pay (subject to a statutory cap) but employers should also be mindful of the risk that, depending on the individual’s circumstances, a refusal could give rise to allegations of unlawful discrimination on the grounds of a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010.

Review flexible working policies

It is therefore important that an employer is able to demonstrate that a proper procedure has been followed and that the reason for any refusal is made clear.

To ensure that requests are handled appropriately, we recommend that employers review and update their existing flexible working policy to reflect the current rules.

At Tallents Solicitors, we can help employers draft appropriate flexible working policies and deal with any flexible working requests, ensuring that both your business and your employees’ rights are fully protected.