NEW Government legislation coming into force this month has slipped into play largely un-noticed, yet it could have implications for both employees and employers alike.
For some time now certain qualifying employees, largely working parents of children under the age of 18 have been entitled to ask their employers for flexible working arrangements. These have included working reduced hours, flexitime and working from home.
From June 30, this legislation was opened up to anyone working in the UK with at least 26 weeks service.
Supporters of the bill say that it makes the legislation more inclusive. Private flexible working arrangements have been a fact of working life for a number of years. Many companies have successfully run ‘flexitime’ arrangements, allowed staff to reduce their hours or even work from home.
We live in a connected world. Superfast broadband, cloud computing, smartphones and tablets mean that this ‘freedom’ effectively makes staff available 24/7.
The need to physically sit in an office has been largely removed and the concept of the ‘virtual office’ is a reality.
For employees like this, the opportunity to request a less traditional working arrangement could well be music to their ears.
Whilst many will see this as employment utopia; the dystopian view is very different.
Employers could find themselves with unmanageable staffing issues, which could in turn lead to falling revenues and poor customer service.
Businesses need to gear up for this now and get solid legal advice where necessary to help them deal with these difficult issues.
How can employers prepare themselves for the inevitable requests?
ACAS have produced an excellent guide on flexible working requests, but it is up to companies to put their own framework and procedures in place. The implications for not doing this are very serious.
All communications between staff and employers should be in writing and an appeal process needs to be part of the process.
Employees making the request need to consider the impact to the business of this change in terms. It’s not just a question of how it will impact them, but also how it will impact the organisation.
Failure to handle these requests properly can lead to an Employment Tribunal, which can result in compensation of up to eight weeks’ pay being awarded to the employee.
If discrimination is proven then compensation can be a great deal more so it is important to get this right.
Permanent ‘flexible working agreements’ constitute a change of contract and both parties will have to adhere to it until a further change is requested and made.
In advance of requests being made, employers should:
- Read the ACAS guidance
- Prepare their own policy and procedures for dealing with requests
- Without pre-judging any request, consider what requests might be made and whether those requests might be accommodated
- Consider the benefits and promotion of flexible working to their staff and to the organisation
- Contact their legal team or speak to a specialist to ensure they are fully prepared.
The legislation is a reaction to the changing business landscape that we now exist within. It can have hugely positive effects on both employees and businesses alike, but companies need to act now to ensure that they are adequately prepared for the first steps in what could be the end of 9 to 5.
For more information contact Peter Lamble by calling 01872 246200 or email email@example.com