Flexible working

With flexible working becoming increasingly common amongst small businesses, it is vital that you have the right policies and procedures in place to manage requests from your employees.

Examples of flexible working arrangements include:

  • Flexitime – Employees work a set number of core hours, whilst choosing when to start and finish
  • Compressed hours – Working the same number of hours over fewer days
  • Job sharing – Two or more employees share the responsibilities of a role, e.g. working alternate days or weeks
  • Home-based working – Employees spend some or all of their time working from home
  • Part-time working – Working shorter hours or fewer days in a working week
  • Term-time working – Employees are on a permanent contract, yet can take paid or unpaid leave during school holidays

Eligibility

In order for a request for flexible working to be automatically given due consideration by their employer, an employee must have at least 26 weeks’ continuous service and be:

  • The parent, adoptive parent, foster parent or guardian of a child under 17 years of age, (or under 18 years of age if the child is disabled).
  • The carer for an adult aged 18 or over that lives at the same address.

However, from April 2014 the right to flexible working will be extended to all employees with at least 26 weeks’ service.

Making a request

Employees have the right to one application for flexible working within a 12-month period. This must be made in writing and should include confirmation of their eligibility, an outline of the proposed working pattern and the date they want to start.

When considering an employee’s request for flexible working, it is crucial that you follow a set procedure. Failure to do so could result in a compensation payout of up to £3,600 to the employee.

Employers may only refuse a request for flexible working with an adequate and genuine business reason, e.g. the burden of additional costs or the detrimental effect that such a change would have on performance.

Do remember that employees have the right to appeal against any decision made.

As a small business owner, there’s no need to shy away from flexible working. When handled correctly it can boost staff morale, motivation and retention, whilst reducing absenteeism.

Equally, however, it’s important to know your rights and legal position when it comes to declining requests for genuine business reasons.

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