Delay to extension of flexible working rights
Currently, only employees with children under the age of 17 (18 if the child is disabled) or who are carers of certain adults have the right to request a flexible pattern of work.
This however is subject to the employee having 26 weeks' continuous employment at the date the request is made, not being an agency worker or a member of the armed forces and not have made another request to work flexibly in the preceding twelve months.
The extension of the right to request flexible working to all qualifying employees was due to be implemented on 6 April 2014 through the Children and Families Bill. However on 22 January, the government announced that implementation would be delayed but no new date has been given as yet. The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) has confirmed that the government will look to implement the extension at "an appropriate date as soon as possible this year".
As well as extension of the right to request flexible working, the statutory procedure for dealing with requests will be removed, replaced instead by an obligation to consider requests reasonably.
On 22 January 2014, ACAS published:
•Its response to the draft Code of Practice relating to the extension of the right to request flexible working
•Its Guidance Handling requests to work flexibly in a reasonable manner to supplement the Code
The Guidance provides an overview on developing a right to request policy and how to deal with requests. It suggests that an employer should consider the request carefully, looking at the benefits of the requested changes for both the employee and the business and weighing these against any adverse business impact. Note that the current eight business reasons for rejecting a request are unchanged.
Many organisations recognise the business benefits of flexible working and already provide that the right to request flexible working is available to all staff. However for those that do not, they will need to keep an eye out for the new implementation date in due course and then to update their flexible working policy and procedures.