The Government proposes to extend the right to request flexible working to all employees. This right had been expected to come into force in April 2014 but BIS has recently confirmed that it will be no longer possible to implement on that date and the Government will look to implement at "an appropriate date as soon as possible this year".
The following changes will be brought into place:
- By extending the right to request flexible working to all employees, it is no longer just those with parental responsibility for a child, or caring responsibilities for an adult who can make a request.
- The current "right to request" procedure will be replaced with a duty on employers to consider requests in a reasonable manner and within a "reasonable period" of time. However, business will retain the flexibility to refuse requests on business grounds.
- A statutory code of practice which is currently still in draft form will give guidance on the meaning of "reasonable" to employers
- Guidance will be provided to employers on how to prioritise conflicting requests that are received at the same time.
The 26 week qualifying period for employees to make a request for flexible working will be retained and the Government has also decided to keep the restriction that means employees can make only one flexible working request in any 12 month period.
In the meantime, companies should continue to follow the existing statutory procedure for dealing with flexible working requests from eligible employees.