The right to request flexible working is extended to all eligible employees today as part of the changes being introduced by the Children and Families Act 2014 and implemented by the Flexible Working Regulations 2014.
Before today, only parents with a child under 17 or a disabled child under 18 and those caring for a dependant had the right to request flexible working. From today, any employee with a minimum of 26 weeks service can request flexible working. The previous statutory procedure is replaced by a general duty to deal with requests in a reasonable manner and within three months. Employees can make one written request in any 12 month period and the employer can refuse the request on one of the existing eight business grounds. Acas has now issued finalised guidance and a Code of Practice on the extension of the right to flexible working, which offer advice on handling multiple requests and how to use the business reasons for refusing a request.
The maximum amount of compensation for a breach of the statutory right to request is eight weeks’ pay (currently capped at £464 per week), although the real threat of claims will continue to be from those with protected characteristics who argue that working inflexibly unlawfully discriminates against them.
In light of the changes, we have been advising employers on reviewing their existing flexible working policies and internal guidance. We are also advising on the potential risks of discrimination claims arising from refusing applications.
If you would like to discuss these matters with a member of our employment team, please us on 01737 854 500