How should employers deal with flexible working requests?
Employers may have recently received an increase in flexible working requests, especially those that have tried to implement some form of ‘pre-Covid’ back to the office policy.
Now that employees have experienced the benefits of working from home, and the added flexibility that comes with it, many aren’t revelling at the thought of returning to the office full time. One way of potentially overcoming this, is for them to submit a flexible working request; for a change in hours or the ability to work from home for a couple of days a week.
So, as an employer, how should you deal with flexible working requests?
Check if they have the right to make a request
Employees with at least 26 weeks’ continuous service have the right to make a flexible working request for any reason.
Consider the request
Providing a qualifying service has been met, and a written request in line with any policy you have has been submitted, you will have three months to decide as to whether the request will be granted. This time period can be extended by agreement, but generally you should respond within a reasonable timeframe.
Look at all available options
If it is looking like the request might not be a suitable option, it is important that you look at all available possibilities. Some considerations would be to modify the request so that it works for both parties, or try a trial period on the new terms to check suitability.
Decide on the outcome
You are only able to refuse a flexible working request for one of the following reasons:
- the burden of additional costs
- detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand
- inability to reorganise work among existing staff
- inability to recruit additional staff
- detrimental impact on quality
- detrimental impact on performance
- insufficiency of work during the periods the employee proposes to work
- or planned structural changes
It goes without saying that any decision must be made on the facts and what is in the best interest of the business, as opposed to personal opinion.
If the request cannot be granted then the employee should be given the right to appeal, allowing them to bring further information to help their case or adding in any omissions.
What should employers take from this?
The main point when deciding whether to grant a request is to treat each request fairly and to discuss the request and available options with the employee. Any failure to do so could result in a claim being issued against you.