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Published 02/07/2014

Government Extends Right To Request Flexible Working Hours To All Employees

As of June 30th 2014, government changes now enable all employees to request flexible working hours within their jobs after an extension was made regarding who was entitled to them, regardless of whether or not they have caring responsibilities.

Previously, statuary applications were only available to carers or parents looking after their child. However, it is now thought that these changes will allow 20 million employees to put forward requests as long as they have worked for the same employer for a minimum of 26 weeks.

The government believes that the recent changes will be of particular interest to older workers who wish to work differently as they approach retirement as well as young employees who wish to request flexible working hours, allowing them to gain additional experience and training outside of their job.

Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, believes the extension will boost productivity and staff morale as employees will feel they are being acknowledged in the work place. He said: " It's about time we brought working practices bang up to date with the needs and choices of our modern families." Clegg later added: "Modern businesses know that flexible working boosts productivity and staff morale, and helps them keep their top talent so that they can grow,"

In agreement with Clegg, Chairman for the Conciliation service Acas, Brendan Barber was able gather from his past experience in the workplace that flexible working hours are good for both employees as well as for the business. Acas also published a code of practise on their website, informing employers on the extension to their rights and how to process requests.

Acas states that Employers must consider requests in a "reasonable manner" and  "must have a sound business reason for rejecting any request" such as an inability or reorganise work amongst existing staff or the inability to recruit a new member of staff. Acas also states that, unless the employee is in agreement of an extension, the employer must come to a decision within three months of the request.

If it becomes apparent that the employer is failing to deal with the request in a reasonable manner, workers can take them to an employment tribunal which could potentially result in the employer compensating their staff if they were to lose their case.

Employers are now expected to consider requests which may lead to job sharing, allowing employees to work from home, part-time workers and phased retirement.

Any Applications of requests made before June 30th must be dealt with using the old rules and these employers will therefore not be entitled to the privileges employees will receive if their requests for flexibility were made after the introductory date.

However, employment lawyers have predicted that, as a result of the new law, small businesses may be at a disadvantage due to finding it hard to grant the requested hours. They believe that if business fail to deal with requests in a way that will benefit all employees, workplace grievances and growing resentment between workers may be an unwelcomed occurrence. 



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