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New Act, new rights for employees

With the Children and Families Act 2014 receiving Royal Assent on 13 March 2014, employees will have the right to request flexible working hours.

As an employer you need to be aware of changes which give extended rights to your domestic staff employees. In the Children and Families Act, the government is introducing a number of what are being termed “family friendly” measures.

These include three which impinge on leave and flexible working, specifically: an extension to the right to request flexible working hours, new provisions on shared parental leave and new rights for fathers to take time off from work to attend ante natal appointments.

It would pay us to take a little time to review these rights, what they mean and how to deal with them.  Firstly, the extension of the right to request flexible working hours.

The right to request flexible working will be extended to all employees, not just those with children under the age of 17 or with caring responsibilities.  The 26-week qualifying period is being retained and the right to request flexible working will be limited to one request per 12-month period.

There will be a new duty on employers to deal with requests in a “reasonable” manner and in a “reasonable” time, replacing the specific timetable currently used.

The employer must respond with a decision within three months of the request for flexible working being made, unless an extension is agreed.  If an employee fails to attend two consecutive meetings without good reason then the request may be treated as withdrawn.

The eight grounds for refusing requests are retained. These include:

  • The burden of additional costs.
  • An inability to reorganise work amongst existing staff.
  • An inability to recruit additional staff.
  • Detrimental impact on quality.
  • Detrimental impact on performance.
  • Detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand.
  • Insufficient work for the periods the employee proposes to work.
  • A planned structural change to the business.

The “presumption of approval” which appeared in earlier drafts has been removed as it was felt it might mislead applicants.

In a following article we will examine the issues of shared parental leave and the right of a father to attend ante natal appointment.

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