As a result of the Government consultation in 2011, the right to request flexible working will be made available to all employees. All eligibility criteria will be removed, except for the 26 weeks’ qualifying service requirement. This extension will come into effect on 6th April 2014.
The right to request flexible working was introduced in 2003. It gave a certain band of employees the right to make a request to their employer to amend their working patterns. It only gives the right to make a request – not a right simply to have working patterns adjusted.
Upon original implementation, the right to request only applied to those employees who were parents (via natural birth; adoption and fostering), or the guardian of a child under the age of 5, or under the age of 18 if the child was disabled. The right also applied to those who were married to, or the partner or civil partner of those above.
Subsequent amendments to the legislation have resulted in a significant widening of scope. The right to request now applies to those with children aged 16 and under (under 18 if the child is disabled). Employees with caring responsibilities are now included in scope: specifically employees who have, or expect to be caring for an adult aged 18 or over who is the spouse; partner; civil partner; near relative of the employee, or someone who doesn’t fall into one of those categories but lives at the same address as the employee.
From 6th April 2014, there will be no restriction on who can make a flexible working request, nor the reason behind the request.
The statutory scheme will also be abolished, getting rid of the prescribed timescales e.g. the need to hold a meeting within 28 days to discuss the request and the need to inform of the decision within 14 days.
The scheme will be replaced by a duty on the employer to consider requests ‘in a reasonable manner’, within a ‘reasonable timescale’. A statutory Code of Practice will be created to help employers understand the element of reasonableness required. Guidance will also be published to assist employers to deal with conflicting requests received at the same time and how employers can handle temporary changes to working patterns.
The restriction of one statutory request per 12 months will remain. Currently, it is also expected that the prescribed reasons for refusing a flexible working request will remain unchanged.
If you would like to find out any additional information regarding flexible working requests, please contact the Peninsula advice service on 0844 892 2772.