From 1 April 2014, the right to request flexible working will extend to all employees, not just those that have children under the age of 17 or responsibilities as a carer. But what issues will this raise for employers? For example, what if all employees do not want to work on a Friday? Would the business have to close?
Under current regulations, the employee has to make a request in writing and the employer has to discuss the request with the employee within 28 days, giving their decision within a further 14. Pending the outcome the employee has a further 14 days to appeal if they wish. Under the new regulations, employers and employees will no longer have to process requests in a particular way or within a set timeframe.
While most employers want to accommodate flexible working requests wherever possible and appreciate that less rigid working practices can bring real benefits in terms of worker loyalty and productivity, they should be prepared for some difficult discussions along the way.
Although not without their concerns, the incoming changes to flexible working rights represent a massive opportunity for employers to change the way they operate while improving employees’ work life balance. The key will be managing requests openly and fairly for all, while still ensuring the operational needs of the business and its customers are met.