Remember that there is no absolute right to work flexibly or part time.
As of June 2014, everyone now has the right to ask to work flexibly and your employer has a duty to consider your request. Your request can cover the hours that you work, where you work and the time(s) that you are required to work.
There are certain conditions to a flexible working request
- You have been employed by the same employer for 26 weeks;
- Requests and appeals must be considered and decided upon within three months of the receipt of the request;
- Requests should be in writing stating the date of the request and whether any previous application has been made and the date of that application; and
- You have not made another request to work flexibly within the past 12 months.
The Government has removed the previous statutory procedure for considering requests so there is no longer a timetable that employers and employees have to stick to. Instead employers will have a duty to consider all requests in a reasonable manner. Businesses still have the flexibility to refuse requests on business grounds.
The permitted business reasons for refusing a request include but are not restricted to:
- Detrimental impact on quality
- Detrimental impact on performance
- Inability to reorganise work among existing staff
- Inability to recruit additional staff
- Insufficiency of work during period you propose to work
- A planned structural changes to the business
The employer’s decision can only be challenged if it is based on incorrect facts. There is no need for the employer to be reasonable.
It is important to recognise that if you feel you have a claim against your employer for breach of the flexible working regulations, there may often be cause for a claim for direct or indirect sex discrimination as well.
Once a flexible working request has been agreed it forms a permanent change to the employee’s contract, unless agreed otherwise, and cannot be changed without further agreement between the employer and employee. The employer and employee can agree that the arrangements are temporary, or subject to a trial period.
If, following a request for flexible working, a permanent change is made to a contract, the employer cannot make unilateral changes to the contract. If it does, the employee will have a potential claim for breach of contract and, possibly, unfair constructive dismissal. A female employee might also have a claim for indirect sex discrimination, if she is disadvantaged by the change to her contract.