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New Flexible Working Hours Law Creates Problems For Employers

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From the beginning of July 2014 changes in the law around flexible working hours means that now anyone who has more than 26 weeks of employment service has the right to ask for flexible working hours.

Employers have the right to reject a flexible working request based on the following business justifications:

  • It will incur additional costs the business
  • You’re unable to reorganise work amongst staff
  • You’re unable to recruit additional staff to cover the work
  • It will impact quality
  • It will impact performance
  • It will impair the business’ ability to meet customer demands
  • There is insufficient work for the periods they propose to work
  • It would require a planned structural change to your business

After a written flexible working request is submitted to the employer, consider the request based on the reasons above and arrange a meeting with the member of staff as soon as possible to explain the decision.

Problems for flexible working hours

These updates to the law around flexible working hours have already been heralded as ‘too vague’ by many employers who fear the backlash of flexible working.

Employment tribunals on the rise?

With flexible working hours being a right for almost everybody in work, there is expected to be a large influx of requests. With the laws around denying a flexible working request being seen as unclear by many, *84% of employers envisaged the changes leading to increased tension among the workforce.

Some see the disputes as becoming more serious with *58% of employers anticipating that the new laws will increase the number of grievances and employment tribunals. Problems can arise from the sense of entitlement that staff may feel they now have to flexible working hours. Combined with the perceived ambiguity around reasons for denying a flexible working hours request you can easily see how this can lead to an influx of grievances and tribunals.

*Figures taken from a survey by Squire Patton Boggs, 2014

An unfair system?

With anyone working under a contract of employment for longer than 26 weeks eligible to request flexible working hours there are fears that the most deserving will be ignored.

People have no obligation to give a reason why they are requesting flexible working hours and people with real needs for flexible working like parents and carers could find their requests going unanswered.

Costing small businesses

The roll out of flexible working hours is likely to hit small businesses the hardest with the UK government projecting losses of £39.8 million per year to businesses. Although the government also projects that the policy will generate £55.8 million annually, small businesses will undeniably find it harder to summon the resources to counter the effects of flexible working (Source: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/flexible-working-rights-extended-to-more-than-20-million).

Talk to an expert

If you’re unsure of how to deal with a flexible working request without risking an employment tribunal, speak to one of our employment law experts for free and impartial ACAS code based advice. Put your mind at ease and call our free employer advice helpline today on 0161 115 6164.

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