Category Archives: flexible working implementation

A Guide To The New Flexible Working Regulations

Flexible working for all was implemented on 30 June 2014.  Previously it was only available to flexible_workingwomen with children and carers, now all employees with 26 weeks continuous service can make a request.  Many employers may be panicking at this prospect but there is no need as any request can be turned down for business reasons.  In this blog I provide a guide to the new flexible working regulations. 

There are quite a few changes to the procedure for making such a request, with the old, prescriptive, statutory regime being replaced by a “requirement to deal with the request in a reasonable manner”. This revised approach is reflected in a new ACAS Code.

The basic right to request flexible work is unchanged. Employees can still make up to one written request every year, which the employer can refuse on any of the existing eight business grounds. The maximum compensation for a failure to comply with the new legislation remains at eight weeks’ pay, with a week’s pay currently capped at £464 per week (2014).

Any request must now be dealt with quickly and within a three month time scale, at the end of which the employer must notify the employee of its decision. The ACAS Code recommends that employers should talk to an employee privately after receiving a written request, allowing employees to be accompanied at any discussion, then consider the request carefully before informing the employee in writing of any decision. The employer should then discuss with the employee how and when the changes might best be implemented or allow an appeal.

Although there is no requirement to allow an appeal, the ACAS Code suggests that employees should be allowed to appeal against a rejection. The appeal should be concluded, if possible, within the three month period. If more time is needed for any reason, a longer period should be agreed with the requesting employee. 

The employee must make a written application which should also:

– state that it is an application made under the statutory provisions;

– specify the change that the employee is seeking and when they wish the change to take effect; and

– explain what effect, if any, the employee thinks the change would have on the employer and how any such effect could be dealt with.

It might be beneficial for an employer to draft a standard template to accompany a revised policy on flexible working.

An employer can treat a request as withdrawn when the employee, without good reason, has failed to attend both the first meeting arranged by the employer to discuss the employee’s request or appeal and the next meeting arranged for that purpose. The ACAS Guide suggests that the employer should find out and consider the reasons for the employee failing to attend both meetings before reaching any decision to treat their request as withdrawn. Employers must notify the employee of their decision.

Employers retain the right to refuse a request to work flexibly on the existing statutory grounds, which include cost; quality; performance; insufficiency of work during the periods the employee proposes to work; and planned structural changes. Although neither the Code nor the Guidance require it, employers should not only specify which of the statutory reasons applies when refusing a request, but also provide sufficient explanation as to why that reason applies. The Guidance gives examples of each of the business reasons.

Employers should also:

– Ensure any agreement to change employment terms is recorded in writing;

– Be very clear about what is being expected of the employee who will be working flexibly.  Trial periods can be used if an employer is unsure if the flexible working may not work.

– Review current policies and procedures and amend in the light of the current changes.


All requests should be treated fairly and consistently to avoid discrimination.  Keeping written records is essential.  





Flexible Working – The Advantages and Disadvantages

From 2014 the government proposes to extend flexible working to all employees in an effort to promote economic growth through a strong and efficient labour market having undertaken a consultation exercise in 2011.  Flexible working was brought into force during 2003 and already parents and carers benefit from being able to make flexible working requests.  ACAS will be developing a Code of Practice on flexible working to support the new law.

The new legislation will replace the current statutory procedure where employers will need to consider flexible working requests within a specified time frame; employers will have the duty to deal with requests in a reasonable manner within a reasonable time frame.  This is being introduced as the government consultation identified that many employers find the existing statutory procedure too prescriptive and time frames inflexible. A statutory code of practice will give guidance on the meaning of reasonable.  Employers will be provided with guidance on how to tackle conflicting requests when received at the same time.  The current requirement to have 26 weeks qualifying period of continuous service will remain.

Flexible working can take many forms – part time working, term time working, job-shares, home-working, compressed hours and flexitime and brings with it both advantages and disadvantages.

The advantages to businesses include being able to hold onto valuable staff, having a wider talent pool, reducing absenteeism, increasing commitment from employees and improving productivity.  A business might also be able to extend opening hours due to the wider availability of the workforce. The government consultation exercise highlighted some employer concerns over the extension of flexible working such as an increased burden and threat of employment tribunals for increased declines in flexible working requests if they can not be accommodated.  Smaller businesses have to ensure they have enough staff available to cover the required hours.  This could be more difficult due to lower levels of employees compared to larger organisations. 

Flexible working benefits employees with a better work life balance so that they have more time to spend with their families or undertake hobbies. Childcare costs may also be reduced.  With employer permission they can travel into work and avoid rush hour traffic, therefore arriving more refreshed.  For those employees who are allowed to work at home all or part of the week, there are the benefits of reduced fuel and motor maintenance costs.

However flexible working without a supervisor being present may cause difficulties for some employees who may be unable to take the initiative or need direction with their duties.  Employees who are not personally motivated may struggle to stay on task and give the job “their all” so that productivity is affected.  Another disadvantage could be that communication and team working may be affected.

The government are confident that the introduction of flexible working for all with bring huge benefits to businesses as well as encouraging a more motivated engaged workforce.  Time will tell…..


How to Effectively Implement Flexible Working

According to a recent CIPD report the vast majority of employers offer some form of flexible working which can include part time working, term time working, job sharing, flexitime, annual hours, working from home, mobile/tele working and career breaks. 
The term flexible working describes a working arrangement that has some degree of flexibility on  how long, where and when employees work.  However, it is reported that only 63% provide the right to request flexible working requests, yet in accordance with the Families and Work Act 2007 they are required by law.  Working at home is the most commonly offered option. Large organisations are more likely to be able to accommodate requests compared to SMEs and flexible working is more common in the public sector.  Women are more likely to use flexible working compared to men with most taking up part time hours.
Some factors contributing to the increased interest in the use of flexible working include:
  • Its potential value as a recruitment and retention tool in a tight labour market.


  • The changing profile of the workforce (for example, with more women in the labour market and an ageing population it is increasingly common for workers to have caring responsibilities outside the workplace).



  • Advances in technology (facilitating, for example, remote working and hot desking arrangements).



  • An increasing need for businesses to be able to deliver services to customers on a 24/7 basis.



  • The economic situation – some organisations have offered part-time working or sabbaticals as a method of avoiding or minimising redundancies.



  • The increased demand for an effective work-life balance.


The benefits of flexible working can be much improved organisational performance, however, there can be barriers to its implementation. The main one appears to be operational pressures.  Other barriers that feature highly are a need to maintain customer/service requirements, inability to effectively manage flexible workers, existing organisational culture and the attitudes of senior managers. It appears there are more barriers for larger organisations than micro businesses.  The biggest obstacles can be the nature of the work and little relevance to the work.
When making a flexible working request an employer may refuse it for a business-related reason which includes:   
  • the burden of additional costs


  • detrimental effect on the ability to meet customer demand



  • the inability to reorganise work among existing staff



  • the inability to recruit additional staff



  • where it will have a detrimental impact on quality and performance.


Having a flexible working request refused can be quite a shock  to those who put in a request so employers should consider how to effectively communicate and implement flexible working.  The following tips may help: 
  • Establish a clear process for how flexible working works in the organisation.


  • Ensure that there are clear roles and responsibilities for employees, line managers and HR.



  • Assess the current levels of support offered to line managers and ensure it is sufficient.



  • Invest in ongoing communication and awareness raising.



  • Assess how conducive the organisation culture is to flexible working – and take action accordingly.



  • Make use of pilots (when introducing new initiatives) and trial periods (for individual flexible working arrangements) in order to highlight potential problems with flexible working arrangements.



  • Build in opportunities and mechanisms to monitor and evaluate progress with flexible working.


In addition, by providing a flexible working information pack that is given to employees containing lots of useful information on the process, provides further useful written communication.   The pack should contain a flexible working application form that allows the employee to describe the existing working pattern, the proposed changes, the impact the change would have on the role, workplace and colleagues with suggestions of how the impact could be dealt with.  This allows the employee to think through the implications for their request and to possibly overcome any rejection.   
In 2014 the government plans to extend flexible working practices to everyone and is currently consulting on this, therefore, it is really important, that employers get their act together and look at effective implementation as it is a powerful tool for staff commitment and retention.