Flexible Working And The Law
Flexible working can take numerous forms, and includes job sharing, working part-time, working from home, ‘flexi-time’, working in shifts or compressing your agreed hours into a shorter period of time.
The Right To Request Flexible WorkingIf you are responsible for your child on a day-to-day basis, you may have the right to request flexible working hours from your employer. To be an employee, you must not be an agency worker, nor be in the armed forces. However, there are other requirements:
- a) Have you worked for your current employer for at least 26 weeks (6 months)?
- b) If you live in England, Wales or Scotland is your child under 17 years old?
- c) If you live in England, Wales or Scotland is your child disabled and under the age of 18?
- d) If you live in Northern Ireland is your child under the age of six?
If you have answered yes to a) and either b), c) or d), then you can ask for flexible working in the UK. It is also possible to ask for flexible working if you care for an adult. Bear in mind, however, that although you have the right to ASK, this does not necessarily mean that your employer must accede to your request. In addition, not having the ‘right’ to ask for flexible working does not prevent you from being able to ask your employer for it.
Who Can Apply?If making an application to care for a child, you must confirm that you are responsible for the child and are either a parent, adoptive parent, Foster Parent or Guardian or are the partner or spouse of a person who has one of these roles. You do not need to provide evidence that you have a parental or caring role in relation to a child, nor do you need to show that someone else could alternatively provide that care.
Procedure For Requesting Flexible WorkingYou are entitled to make the request once a year, but bear in mind that there is a strict procedure that will need to be followed and the entire process could take up to 14 weeks. If your employer agrees to your request, you will have different – and possibly reduced – hours, which means that you may receive different remuneration, too.
Duty To Consider RequestYour employer has a duty to give your request serious consideration. If refused, your employer has to show that they have a good reason for doing so and give these reasons in writing. You can appeal their decision, but must provide notice in writing that you wish to appeal, giving reasons why you want to appeal, within 14 days of receiving the decision.
Other OptionsIf your employer still does not agree to your request to work flexible hours, there may still be some options open to you. ACAS offers a flexible working arbitration scheme, which may be able to help you come to an agreement with your employer. The Labour Relations Agency may be able to help in Northern Ireland.
Employment TribunalsIt may also be possible to take your employer to an employment tribunal on the basis of sex discrimination. For example, if female workers in your organization have made successful requests for flexible working and you believe that you have been refused on the basis that you are a man, this could constitute a valid claim for sex discrimination. However, an employment tribunal might not have the ability to turn over your employer’s decision, but may order them to reconsider your request, or to pay you compensation.
Another option is only available in limited circumstances: if your employer did not follow the proper procedure for flexible working requests, or if they failed to take into account all the information that you submitted as part of your request, then you may be able to take this complaint to an employment tribunal. For more information, contact a legal advisor or your local Citizens Advice Bureau.