Flexible Working – all change?

The extension of the right to request flexible working to all employees from 2015 is a long cherished objective of the Coalition following its inclusion in the “Programme for Government”.

The current statutory framework was introduced in 2002 and limits the right to request flexible working to carers and those with a minimum length of service.

The practical consequences of any extension may be more limited than expected for a number of reasons:

• There is no current proposal to compel employers to accept requests to work flexibly.  Employers may refuse such an application on a variety of grounds such as additional costs, detrimental impact on customer service, quality or performance;

• In practice many employers have already gone further than the statutory scheme.  For example, a CBI survey of London employers during the London 2012 Olympics founds that over 50 per cent intended (and presumably did) allow their employees to “work flexibly during the summer period”;

• Unfortunately the main  problem in practice is the increasingly common situation where an employee who has reduced their hours has failed to realise that there is no automatic entitlement to increase those hours to match their changing personal financial difficulties;

On the negative side, many employers will still find it difficult to argue that they require a “full working week” model certainly in the absence of objective justification and a failed “temporary trial period” and as such any change may be unwelcome.  The growth in mum-preneurs seems more likely to cause an increase in employment than fathers wanting to work part time.