The law in relation to flexible working changed in the summer, which means that the statutory right to make a request for flexible working is now available to many more members of your staff. This could clearly increase the amount of management time you need to spend dealing with such requests, and you may also be faced with some difficult decisions to make.
Almost all eligibility criteria for making a statutory request for flexible working will be removed. The requirement for the employee to be a parent of a child of a particular age; or to have caring responsibilities will no longer apply. This means:
- that almost everyone will be entitled to make a request; and
- the request can be for any reason.
The employee is still required to have 26 weeks’ service at the time the application is made, and only one statutory request is permitted per 12 months.
Because the scope of who is eligible to make a request has widened extensively, there may be more opportunity for competing requests to be received by you. Those who currently have the right to make a request in relation to their children (e.g. an employee who wants to start later and finish later so they are able to drop their child off at school) will still have the right. However, an employee who wishes to leave work early so that they can, for example, go to a cookery class will also have the right to make a request for flexible working. You will have a statutory duty to consider all requests.
Each request has to be assessed on its merits according to your operational needs at the time the request is made. No request is more ‘valid’ than another and you are not required to make a judgment on who has a more deserving request.
So how do you decide who to grant a request for when you have two conflicting requests? It may be a good idea to involve the employees. Tell them that you can only accommodate one request (if this is a genuine restriction – if you can accommodate both, then grant both) and see if they can come to a compromise between themselves which means that it works for everyone.
If this is not possible, ask other members of staff who already work flexibly under the flexible working rules whether they still require their flexibility. It may be that one member of staff needed flexibility while their child was at school, but the child has now left school.
If all else fails, then it may be that you can adopt a random selection method (names in a hat, for example), provided that the employees are aware that this method will be used.
For more information on flexible working, call your Education Specialists at the 24 Hour Advice Service.