WorkLife

Our thoughts on the world of employment law - and beyond.

Flexible working – benefit, not burden?

1

The Flexible Working Regulations 2014 SI 2014/1398 have just been published. They form part of the legislative framework that implements the long-heralded changes to the flexible working regime, which come into force on 30 June (for more on which see Flexible working requests: delay gives employers extra time to review existing policies)

The Regulations make for pretty dull and very short reading. All they do is:

  • lay down the qualifying condition for an employee to be entitled to make a statutory application for flexible working to his or her employer [namely 26 weeks’ continuous service]
  • prescribe the form of that application [in writing, dated and with the dates of any previous applications]
  • identify the date on which an application is made [the day it is received by the employer, which will depend on the method of delivery]
  • confirm the maximum amount of compensation that can be awarded by an employment tribunal for breach of the statutory right [eight weeks pay].

The other legislative part of the new flexible working regime – Part 9 of the Children and Families Act 2014 [which replaces the statutory process for dealing with an application with a duty on the employer to consider the request “in a reasonable manner”] – is yet to be published but will also come into force on 30 June. In addition there will be an ACAS Code of Practice on handling flexible working requests, currently still in draft form (the draft can be found here http://www.acas.org.uk/media/pdf/n/b/DRAFT-Code-of-Practice-on-handling-in-a-reasonable-manner-requests-to-work-flexibly.pdf). So all in all, not much lead-in time before implementation, which is not ideal.

What makes for more interesting and provocative reading are parts of the Explanatory Memorandum to these new Regulations. The Memo states that the opportunity to apply for flexible working has been widened to anyone, not just parents and carers, “because the current restrictions on this statutory right create the cultural belief that flexible working is only of benefit to parents and carers and, consequently, primarily for women as they deliver the majority of the caring role.” It goes on to claim that this change will “allow more employers to see the benefits of [flexible working] arrangements”. Furthermore, it estimates that the impact on employers “is average annual benefits..totalling £55.8m”, arising from “higher productivity, lower labour turnover, reduced absenteeism and the removal of the statutory procedure”. Discuss.

Comments (1):

Posted by Diana Ramanauskaite. 02 August 2014 10:53

From the first sight it seems to be a welcome change due to the greater pool of candidates who could use this benefit. However, again the employers are left with lots of room to manoeuvre due to the removal of the statutory procedure. The introduction of ACAS Code of Practice on Handling Requests in a Reasonable Manner with paragraph 11 does not look very advantageous to the employees willing to use flexible working pattern. The employers are left with such broad excuses as "a detrimental impact on performance". Therefore, another try to improve working conditions of employees looks a bit disabled.

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