07 Aug 2014

Flexible Working Hours

Flexible Working Hours

Catriona Milne, Solicitor, discusses the new flexible working hours legislation and what it means for employers and employees alike. 

Catriona Milne, Solicitor, discusses the new flexible working hours legislation and what it means for employers and employees alike. 

As of 30th June 2014, every employee now has the right to request flexible working hours. This change hugely broadens an employee right that has been slowly extended over the last decade. Initially in 2003, the right to request flexible working hours was only open to carers of children under 6 years old. In 2006 it was extended to include those caring for adults, then the Government later included the parents of children under 16. As of last week, every UK employee who has been with the same employer for 26 weeks now has the right to request flexible working hours.

The Government has extended the measure to reflect the needs and requirements of ‘modern businesses’ and their ‘modern families’. It is hoped that the right to request flexible working hours will, in particular, benefit the youngest and oldest employees in the workplace. By allowing employees to work flexible hours, a workplace may benefit by showing an increase in productivity, staff retention rates and higher staff morale. 

Both employers and employees alike should remember that this extension of the right to request flexible working hours is simply a right to request flexible working hours from the employer and they are under no obligation to grant the employee’s request and can refuse the request if they have a legitimate business reason for doing so. However, employers should give ’reasonable consideration’ to each request and would be advised to assess the advantages and disadvantages of the request and setting up a meeting with the employee to discuss. Employers are advised to review their policies in respect of flexible working hours and ensure that they have a robust flexible working hours policy in place that clearly sets out how requests will be dealt with and what factors may be taken into consideration. Businesses are advised to obtain legal advice in respect of this new change if they are at all unsure of its application.

This change will likely be welcomed by many employees although it remains to be seen how many businesses will be able to accommodate flexible working hours across their workforce.  

Catriona Milne, Solicitor


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