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Flexible working: Taking the right approach
18 January 2017

The Modern Families Index 2017 recently reported that 47% of millennial fathers want to downshift into a less stressful job because they can’t balance the demands of work and family life and 38% of millennial fathers would be willing to take a pay cut to achieve a better work-life balance. The report highlights a fundamental problem with workplace culture in the UK but what does this mean for your organisations?

This article serves as a reminder of what the legal position on flexible working is and what your organisation can do to ensure it is compliant.

Why is the Modern Families Index Important?

The Index raises serious concerns for employers as those operating strict and regimented working patterns may lose out in the long term if they fail to be flexible. They could have difficulties attracting and retaining talent as the report indicates a ‘seismic change in workforce mentality’ whereby individuals are searching for less stressful and more flexible jobs because they want to be more involved in raising their children.

What is the right to request flexible working?

The right to request flexible working was introduced under the Employment Act 2002 and was subsequently extended in June 2014 by the Children and Families Act 2014. It applies to employees (not agency workers) with at least 26 weeks of continuous employment. The request must be in writing and an employee can only submit one request in a 12 month period. As employers you are required to notify the employee of the decision within three months of their request.

An employer can legitimately refuse a request on one of eight grounds set out in the Employment Rights Act 1996 s80G which includes areas such as cost, quality, performance, structural changes, customer demand and work available.

What can you do to ensure your organisation is legally compliant?

  • Do you routinely review your flexible working policy and assess your workforce and current flexible arrangements in place? Are you treating all employees fairly? Are you taking a consistent approach? Are you aware of employees juggling many commitments and working long hours? Is there a way you could afford them some more flexibility to ease pressures?
  • Do you have a process in place for reviewing requests? You should note the three month response deadline.
  • How are you dealing with the informal requests from individuals who may not be eligible for the statutory right to request but who for medical or family reasons for example have asked for certain changes to their working pattern? You shouldn’t forget about these individuals, and failure to deal with these requests reasonably can still leave you open to the risk of discrimination claims.
  • Make sure you always discuss the request with the employee and remember that you have a legal obligation to act in a reasonable manner.

For information about our family friendly training courses and update sessions for HR and managers, please contact Emma O’Connor Head of Training – Employment Group at [email protected]

Date for you diary

This article also raises issues about the management of millennials within the workplace – this is a growing issue for many organisations.  Save the date – 11 May 2017, “2020 Leadership – The Millennial Dilemma”.  Our Employment and Training Academy is running a specific training course on millennial management – save the date, booking details to follow.  

To discuss how this may affect your organisation please contact the Employment Group on 0118 952 7284 or at [email protected].

Consistent with our policy when giving comment and advice on a non-specific basis, we cannot assume legal responsibility for the accuracy of any particular statement. In the case of specific problems we recommend that professional advice be sought.

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