Flexible working bill put before Parliament
A Labour MP has introduced a Flexible Working Bill under Parliament’s Ten Minute Rule. If this is passed, it will mean that employers must offer flexible working arrangements in employment contracts and “advertise the available types of such flexibility in vacancy notices.”
It should be noted that, while this Bill has been backed by not just other Labour MPs but also MPs from the Conservative, Liberal Democrats, Green, SNP, and DUP parties, a Private Member’s Bill does not have automatic backing from the current Government and will not be implemented unless this is given. That said, the Bill simply reflects what many employees are currently thinking!
Currently employees have various rights when making flexible working requests. There is a statutory right to request flexible working after 26 weeks of consecutive service and employers must, by law, consider it.
To make a statutory flexible working request, the employee must:
- make the request in writing
- specify the date on which the employee would like to start flexible working
- detail the change that is requested
- explain the effects that the employee thinks the requested change would have on the employer’s business
- explain how the employee thinks any such effects might be dealt with
Employers should hold a meeting to discuss the request before making a decision. This is a chance for the employee to provide reasons for the request and for both parties to work out how they can put the flexible working pattern in place. For example, employers can agree on a trial period to see if the arrangement could work short-term.
After the meeting, employers must consider the request and give the employee a response within at least 3 months – but good practice would suggest that a decision should be provided as soon as possible following the meeting. Employers must have sound business reasons for refusing a request, falling under one of the following categories:
- the burden of additional costs;
- detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand;
- inability to reorganise work among existing staff;
- inability to recruit additional staff;
- detrimental impact on quality;
- detrimental impact on performance;
- insufficiency of work during the periods that you propose to work; and
- planned changes.
Not every employer will be in a position to offer flexible working to all employees but it appears that the temporary shift that many businesses were forced to make has resulted in a number of employees preferring home working.
To meet growing demand for more flexibility, it may be worth considering offering working arrangements along the following lines:
- staggering start and finish times
- implementing “flexi-time”, where staff are able to work less hours one day and make it up at a later date
- increased annual leave options, such as the option to buy or sell leave
- job sharing or part-time working options
Employers should be aware that changes of this nature would result in a change to employment terms and conditions, meaning employers should seek staff agreement first.