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– Laws Extend Right To Request Flexible Working Beyond Carer Responsibilities

National law firm Irwin Mitchell has urged employers to ensure they are prepared for new far-reaching flexible working laws which are introduced on Monday 30 June 2014 – or risk face paying thousands of pounds in compensation.

The latest change to employment law will allow all employees to make a formal request to work flexibly provided they have been with the company for at least 26 weeks.

Employees will not have to demonstrate that they have parental or other caring responsibilities, as they do currently, and can instead apply for any reason – even if it is linked to their personal preferences.

Employees will be able to make up to one written request for flexible working every year. Once a request is made, a business is required to meet with the employee to discuss his proposals, consider, reach a decision and offer the employee the right of appeal if the application is rejected.

The individual time limits which currently apply in relation to each stage will be abolished and instead, the whole process, including any appeal, must be dealt with within a three month period.

Failure to comply with the procedure can result in the company needing to pay compensation of up to £3,712.

Glenn Hayes, Employment Partner at Irwin Mitchell, said:

“It is important to remember that the changes will not alter the basic premise that the right is to request a different working pattern, not a right to obtain it. An organisation will still be able to reject an application on the eight existing grounds if granting the request will have an adverse impact on the business.

“This process is not onerous and the introduction of a requirement to act reasonably should not cause difficulties for most employers.  Employees will only be able to bring a claim against their employer if their request has not been dealt with in accordance with the procedural requirements, if the decision is not based on one of the eight grounds, if it has been based on incorrect facts, or is discriminatory.

“If a company doesn’t already have a policy in place to deal with this, now is the time to draft one.  A policy will help staff and managers understand what is expected of them and how a decision will be made. Even if you already have a policy in place, unless it is open to all staff, you will need to adapt it to reflect these changes.”