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The right to request flexible working

If your housekeeper, chauffeur or any member of domestic staff wishes to work flexible hours, how do you react?  Or, more to the point, how should you react?

Until now, the answer has been clear:  unless that staff member was a carer or looked after children, a nanny, for example, you didn’t have to seriously consider their request.  But now you do.

Assuming that the staff member has been with you for more than six months, they now have the legal right to request flexible working hours and you as their employer have to consider the request “in a reasonable manner”.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has now extended this right to ask to work flexibly to some 20 million people.

Why would someone ask for this?

Because of personal problems, family issues, young children, older parents, etc., but aren’t these the very reasons you have employed the person in the first place?  Of course, it could also mean the person wants to attend training classes to acquire new skills or to upgrade their existing skills.

But what if you dismiss the idea out of hand, or consider it and then say no?  At the moment the employee does not have the legal right to challenge your decision, but that may also change in the future.

The TUC is already saying that more needs to be done to ensure that employees’ requests are given fair consideration and may well pursue the right to challenge an employer’s reason for rejecting a request.

The extension to flexible working hours was announced less than seven days after the government said it would ban employers from preventing staff with zero-hours contracts – under which employees’ hours are not guaranteed – looking for extra work elsewhere. Change is in the air.

Watch this space; we are sure this hasn’t ended yet!

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