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Flexible working

Under the Flexible Working Rules 2003, the Flexible Working Procedural Regulation 2002 and the Flexible Working Regulations 2002 incorporate the Government’s policy in relation to flexible working. As from the 6th April 2003, parents and guardians of children under 6 or under 18 if the child is disabled, can make a request to their employer for flexible working arrangements.

What constitutes flexible working arrangements?

It certainly covers part time working, working from home or a change in hours. Not all employees can make a request. The qualifying employee must have at least twenty six weeks employment before they can make the request. Both parents can make the request for example if both of the parents are employed by the same employer, there is nothing to stop both parents asking for flexible working.

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It is highly likely that the right will be extended to cover carers of sick and disabled relatives and older children before 2007.

The employer may object to allowing flexible working in the following circumstances:-

  • On the grounds that the burden on the business is such that it would raise additional costs.
  • That it is detrimental to the effect on the businesses ability to meet
    customer demand.
  • It is detrimental on the ability to reorganise work amongst other existing staff.
  • That there is difficulty in recruiting additional staff to cover.
  • It would affect the quality or performance of the business.
  • That there would be insufficient work for the person to do during
    the period proposed.
  • That the structural changes would have an adverse affect on the business.
    All of these amount to grounds on which the employer could legitimately refuse the application.

Procedural Requirements

For the employee to apply for flexible working, he must do so in writing and it must be dated and state whether any previous application has been made by the employer to the employee and if so, when. The employee’s application must also state the nature and date of the change to the terms and condition which he wishes, the employer must within 28 days after receiving the application, hold a meeting to discuss the application. The employer has 14 days to notify the employee in writing of his decision after the meeting. If the decision is a refusal he must specify the grounds for the refusal and then the employee has 14 days to appeal the decision. The appeal must be in writing and must be heard by the employer within 14 days of receiving it.

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It is important to be borne in mind when dealing with flexible working that women returning from maternity leave are frequently asked for changes in hours and the Sex Discrimination Act can cover these circumstances and probably provides more protection in itself than a flexible working arrangement. The same will also apply in relation to claims on part time working under the Part Time Working Discrimination Rules.

In conclusion

The Regulations give grounds for people asking for flexible working in relation to child care. They do not however necessarily mean that the employer has to provide flexible working and there are many reasons where the employer can refuse, legitimately provided they have got evidence to support the grounds for refusal. However, it is a change for the better for employees in these circumstances and may become more useful when it is extended to take into account all children and caring for disabled adults and elderly parents.

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If you are considering going to an Employment Tribunal then see our Employment Tribunal pages.
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If you are losing your job due to Capability then visit our Capability pages.
If you think you may be suffering from disability discrimination then visit our disability discrimination pages.
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If you are being put on Garden Leave then please see our Garden Leave pages


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