Flexible working maze

Flexible working maze

The perils of flexible working requests can prove a difficult maze to negotiate; there are lessons to be learnt.

As employers and prospective employers of domestic and household staff you may well be asked by an employee if they can work flexible hours. On the face of it, you can say Yes or No and think the issue ends there, but it can be a maze to negotiate.

Unfortunately, it is not as simple as yes or no and a recent employment tribunal case shows how easy it is to fall into a trap.

So firstly, what should your actions be when asked for flexible working hours by an employee?

The advice below is from the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (UK) (ACAS)

Employees with less than 26 weeks service record do not have a statutory right to request flexible working.

The request must be made in writing and must give the date of the request, the change to their working condition they are requesting, the date on which they would wish the change to come into effect, whether or not they have made a previous request and, if so, the date of that request. They must also state if they are making their request in relation to the Equality Act 2010, for example, as a reasonable adjustment for a disabled employee.

The process of considering the request, your response and any appeal has to be completed within a three month period.

Employers should consider requests in a reasonable manner and can only refuse them if there is a valid reason for doing so.  This reason must be from the following list:

  • the burden of additional costs
  • an inability to reorganise work amongst existing staff
  • an inability to recruit additional staff
  • a detrimental impact on quality
  • a detrimental impact on performance
  • detrimental effect on ability to meet employers demands
  • insufficient work for the periods the employee proposes to work
  • a planned structural change to the duties required

Where agreement cannot be reached, the employee can take their case to an employment tribunal, although there is a fee they have to pay for entering into this process.

A woman employee of an airline recently won her claim of sex discrimination against an airline that refused her request for flexible working after she returned from maternity leave. She had worked for the airline for 13 years on a flexible rota system allowing her to work any 22 days each month.

However, after returning from maternity leave she requested to work on a pre-arranged fixed rota of 11 days a month, as she was experiencing difficulties in securing child-care provision. This request was refused by the company.

Her claim of sex discrimination was upheld.

The claim and the judgement bring home how carefully employers must proceed. Our advice, as always, is to seek appropriate professional advice before taking any action. Our resumé above is for information only.