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10 things you need to know about flexible working rules

Flexible time - Green clockWith so many sporting events taking place this summer, many employees will be hoping to work flexibly so they can enjoy them. But how flexible do employers really need to be?

1. By law, employers must “consider seriously” requests to work flexibly from employees with a child aged 16 or under or a child with disabilities under 18, and employees looking after an adult dependant.

Whether an employee has children or not, wanting to watch a televised sports event is not reasonable grounds for requesting flexible working. However, employers granting some flexibility for special matches could be good for staff morale – providing employees make up the time and it doesn’t detrimentally affect the business.

2. Adopters, guardians and foster parents have no less right to flexible working than biological parents.

3. Flexible working is any working pattern other than the normal working pattern – it can involve changes to the hours an employee works, the times they are required to work or their place of work.

4. Employees may request to do some or all of their work from home. Employers still have health and safety obligations to employees working at their home.

5. The employee must prepare a detailed written application well in advance of when they want to change their working pattern. It is good practice to acknowledge an application to work flexibly in writing.

6. Employers can refuse an application to work flexibly only if there is a valid business reason, such as: the burden of additional costs; inability to meet customer demand or reorganise work among other employees; detrimental effect on quality or performance; insufficient work when the employee proposes to work, etc.

7. If you refuse an application to work flexibly, the employee may appeal. They must write to do so within 14 days of you sending your letter of refusal. You must have another meeting within 14 days of receiving this letter to hear the appeal. You must write, accepting or refusing the appeal, within 14 days of this meeting.

8. In some circumstances, the employee may decide to make a formal complaint to an employment tribunal or to the Acas arbitration scheme.

9. If you accept a request for flexible working you will need to amend the employee's contract of employment to reflect the changes. If the new flexible working arrangement involves changes to the number of hours worked, you will need to amend the employee's pay and holiday entitlement.

10. You must be consistent in your approach to flexible working. Keep records of who has applied to work flexibly, and what your response was. Monitor and evaluate how the new arrangements are working.

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