These are very strange times. Therefore, so many of us have been given no choice except to let our employees work from home. Perhaps you were concerned about doing it at first, like many employers were. We were led to believe that our employees would not focus on their work if they were at home – that they would be distracted by the washing machine and Netflix – but we have been given a violent push into that lifestyle and we presume- for the most part – your staff have risen to the challenge.
As the world gets back to normal, we are now being forced to ask questions, lots of them posed by our employees. Can they continue working from home? Can they keep flexible working hours? The list is endless.
In this article, we will deal with the flexible working hours question. You may be wondering if your employees are allowed to demand them. Well, the answer depends on several circumstances.
What is flexible working?
Flexible working is working in any pattern that is different from the existing one. It might include changing employee hours from full-time to part-time or changing part-time hours from weekends to weekdays. More commonly, flexible working hours are an attempt by an employee to fit working around other responsibilities, such as school hours, college hours, or care arrangements.
Flexible working might also include compressing the employees agreed hours across fewer days, working ‘flexitime’, which allows employees to fit their working hours around agreed core times, or working remotely – which is a common request now.
There are also annualised hours, which gives employees the option to agree working hours across a year and then complete them whenever they want, and term-work, which means employees do not work in school holidays.
There are two ways employees can ask for flexible working, either through a statutory or non-statutory request.
Which employees can request flexible working?
By law, employees can make a flexible working request if;
- they have worked for you for at least 26 weeks
- they are legally classed as an employee
- and they have not made any other flexible working request in the last twelve months.
That does not mean people who do not meet these requirements cannot ask you for flexible working, or that you should not grant it to an employee who does not match all three categories. If it is possible to allow your employee flexible working, it is usually a good idea to do it. Happy employees work harder and commit to your business for a longer period of time.
If an employee asks you for flexible working and they meet the requirements above, you must:
- look at the request fairly, following the Acas Code of Practice on flexible working requests
- make a decision within a maximum of three months.
If you do not do these things, you could be subject to legal action. Remember, all flexible working requests should be treated in the same way, even if your employee is a parent, carer, or returning from maternity leave. If you have found to be discriminating against an individual when they request flexible working, you could be in serious trouble.
Therefore, in a nutshell, your employee cannot demand flexible working hours. But you should take every request extremely seriously. Jumping to a knee-jerk no can have serious consequences.
The difference between statutory and non-statutory requests for flexible working
You are legally required to consider and reply to statutory requests for flexible working, which are requests employees can submit by law if they meet the conditions bulleted above. There is a process set out by law that you must follow if your employee makes a statutory request for flexible working. You ignore or throw out these requests at your peril.
A non-statutory request is a request made by an employee who does not meet the above criteria. Though you are not required to follow a legal process to respond to these, it is a good idea to treat requests for flexible working the same.
Lots of organisations have a process in place, which lets employees know how they deal with both statutory and non-statutory requests for flexible working. This is a good idea, because that way everyone knows where they stand.
We can help
If you think your employees might start making flexible working requests and you are not sure how you will deal with them, we can help.
A trained solicitor can help you set in stone your stance on flexible working, which will make deciding what to do when someone makes the request quick and easy.
Flexible working requests are always going to come, both in statutory and non-statutory form, so this service is an investment into your future business.
For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 0161 491 3933.