How to deal with flexible working requests from parents

Peninsula Team

September 24 2010

Currently, the right to request flexible working applies to employees with at least 26 weeks’ service. The employee must be the parent, adopter, guardian or foster parent of a child aged 16 or under (or below 18 if the child is disabled) and have, or expect to have, responsibility for the upbringing of the child; or be, or expect to be, caring for an adult who is the employee’s spouse/civil partner/near relative, or who lives at the same address as the employee.

When a request is received, the employer must hold a meeting with the employee within 28 days to discuss the request. The employee has the right to be accompanied to this meeting. There are several ways in which an employee could propose to work flexibly, including starting and finishing earlier, job-sharing, term-time only working etc. The employer has a duty to consider the request, but as part of the application, the employee should set out the effect that this change would have on the organisation, and suggestions as to how this impact could be handled. This should aid the employer in his decision process.

The employer should let the employee know in writing within 14 days of the meeting whether the request has been granted or not. A request can be refused as long as the refusal is on one of the accepted grounds. The grounds could be, for example, additional costs, effect on customer demands, re-organisation of other employees, recruiting additional employees or affecting the quality and performance of the company. The reason for refusal should be identified in the written decision given to the employee.

Any changes in contractual terms will become permanent variations unless a temporary period is agreed at the outset.

An employee is entitled to appeal a refusal within 14 days of the notice of decision. If an appeal is made, the employer must hold a meeting with the employee to discuss the appeal within 14 days of the employee’s notice of appeal.

Within 14 days of the appeal meeting the employee needs a written, dated notice of decision. If the appeal is dismissed the notice should state the grounds for the decision and contain a sufficient explanation as to why those grounds apply.

An employee whose request for flexible working under these statutory provisions is refused can bring a tribunal complaint, for example, where the employer has failed to comply with the regulations governing the handling of the application; or where the employer’s decision to reject the application is based on incorrect facts.

For more information on flexible working or any other employment law issues please call our 24 hour advice line on 0844 892 2772.

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