10 things you need to know about flexible working rules

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Employees might like the sound of flexible working to give them a better worklife balance. But how flexible do employers really need to be?

  1. By law, employers must "consider" requests to work flexibly from all eligible employees from day one. (Before April 2024, employees needed 26 weeks' continuous service before they gained the right to request flexible working.)
  2. Employees can make two requests for flexible working every 12 months.
  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. Employees may request to do some or all their work from home. Employers still have health and safety obligations to employees working at their home.
  4. 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 amongst other employees; detrimental effect on quality or performance; insufficient work when the employee proposes to work, etc. Before refusing an application, you must consult with the employee.
  5. If you refuse an application to work flexibly, the employee may appeal. They must appeal in writing, and you must arrange a meeting and inform the employee of your decision without "unreasonable delay".
  6. You must conclude all requests (including appeals) and inform the employee of your decision within two months.
  7. In some circumstances, the employee may decide to make a formal complaint to an employment tribunal or to the Acas arbitration scheme.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. Special events, eg major sporting events and royal weddings, are in themselves not reasonable grounds for requesting flexible working. However, granting some flexibility for special occasions could be good for staff morale - providing employees make up the time and it doesn’t detrimentally affect the business.

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