Flexible working changes: must you tell the staff?

From 30 June 2014 any employee who has at least 26 weeks’ continuous service will have the statutory right to make a flexible working request. Are you obliged to bring this major change to your workforce’s attention?

Game changer

The right to make a flexible working request was first put on the statute books back in 2003. At that point, it only applied to a fairly limited group of employees. Over the years, it has been extended on numerous occasions and from 30 June 2014 it applies to all employees (including directors who work under a service agreement) provided that individual:

  • has at least 26 weeks’ continuous service; and
  • hasn’t made a flexible working request in the previous twelve months.

Tip. If an employee doesn’t meet these criteria, you can automatically reject any flexible working application they’ve made.

Spill the beans

One thing that many of our subscribers would like to know is whether or not they are specifically required to inform their employees about this extension. As far as the law is concerned, you’re under no obligation whatsoever to put employees in the picture – this is a matter for your discretion. But that then begs the following question: “should you bring this change to your employees’ attention?”

Tip. Our advice here is “don’t” . Firstly, there’s no point making work for yourself; secondly, announcing that there’s been an extension to the right to request flexible working will alert employees who were otherwise oblivious to it and that could mean a whole stack of applications. That said, while you can keep it quiet, you can’t avoid updating your policies and procedures.

Already done for you

Both will require a pretty major overhaul on 30 June 2014 but there’s no need to panic – we’ve done all the hard work for you and created a flexibleworking policy that complies with the new rules (see The next step ).

It sets out the new statutory right, explains how flexible working applications will be dealt with from now on and draws to employees’ attention the permitted business grounds for rejecting a request.

Tip 1. You just need to decide exactly who will be responsible for dealing with flexible working applications, i.e. a single person or a group of people, and your own workplace procedures if this task will be undertaken by a number of senior staff, e.g. various directors and/or managers. This is a matter the board should decide on.

Tip 2. Provided your previous flexible working policy was deemed to be non-contractual you don’t need your employees’ express permission to amend it. You can simply substitute that one with ours in your staff handbook. Again, you don’t have to advise employees that you’ve done this.

Tip 3. Finally, whilst the onus is on the employee to formulate a flexible working request properly, a badly drafted application is a waste of everybody’s time. Therefore, we created a flexible working application form that allows them to provide all the information you need (see The next step ).

Reproduced with the permission of Indicator – FL Memo Limited. For subscription information call 01233 653500