It is official then, that the reforms that the Government promised back in 2019 have been bounced off the agenda and not mentioned in the queen’s speech in May, this means that the promised reform of flexible working will not go ahead (possibly never).
You may have read our previous news post or in the press, the consultation which contained proposals to reform flexible working regulations (The Flexible Working Regulations 2014). The publication also covered the wider work being undertaken by the government to encourage and support flexible working, it also responded to relevant proposals from the Good Work Plan: Proposals to support families consultation which launched in July 2019.
As we now know as announced in the queen’s speech flexible working will not be amended along with the other reforms, the government focussing on other pressing matters instead….
What is the legislation surrounding Flexible Working?
Since way back in 2003 which is when the legislation came into force providing parents (and certain other carers) with the right to request a flexible working arrangement, this could cover working hours/patterns and also work location. It was then updated in 2014, with the provision of the right to request a flexible working arrangement being extended to all employees with 26 weeks of continuous service. In order to request flexible working the individual has to show how it can work for the business, as a business owner you can reasonably refuse the request.
What was due to change in legislation?
So, what was on the cards to change? In a nutshell, the change would have meant that flexible working would become more accessible to more individuals, the proposals would have meant that flexible working would be a day one right for the individuals to make a request, it also included a review of the current reasonable denials of the request, in addition, Employers would be encouraged to consider alternatives if a flexible working request cannot be accommodated.
What happens now?
In essence, there are no amendments so as an Employer you need not take any action, that is if you are already offering the right to flexible working, we know that over 40% of Employers do not, so it is our suggestion that Employers consider their approach in the future, take action by:
- Introducing policy and procedure (or reviewing existing)
- Informing their teams of their rights
- Act reasonably as an Employer by following policy, and process and considering each request on its individual merits.
Why not watch our video and we talk you through just how to manage the flexible working process.
Are there any Risks if I can’t or Don’t Offer Flexible Working as an Employer?
There have been recent cases in Employment Tribunals (ET) that highlighted specific risks of indirect sex discrimination relating to flexible working requests. It is widely recognised by ET’s that women predominantly take on the childcare responsibilities more than the men in relationships, this can lead to women being disadvantaged by inflexible working practices and place them at risk of discrimination.
I refer here to our recent latest news in which we highlighted the Thompson vs Scancrown Ltd T/A Manors, case, interestingly in just one of the claims brought to the tribunal was that she experienced ‘Indirect Sex Discrimination’ The tribunal did award to Mrs. Thompson, and this is related to flexible working request. She provided evidence she was unfairly burdened with childcare, providing a survey by Direct Line Insurance, saying that mothers take the burden of 64% of childcare labour, taken in 2018. Given the survey’s methodology seemed sound, and it was relatively recent, the tribunal was happy to accept it as evidence that, compared to the male employees at Manors, the refusal of flexible working was an undue burden on the women and specifically mothers.
In view of recent successful wins at Employment Tribunals, it will continue to be an interesting time for Employers, especially ones that don’t’ openly embrace flexible working currently, or in the future. There will undoubtedly be a demand for flexibility, we know only too well this has increased since the pandemic and there can be benefits for both Employer and Employee when executed in the right way.
What do you think?
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Here to Help
HR and You’s handbooks and policies are fully in line with current legislation in regard to direct and indirect discrimination – and should you find yourself dealing with a flexible working request, we would be more than happy to help advise and guide you towards the ideal solution for you, your Employee, and your Business.
We are here to provide full advice, support, and guidance. We can advise in any HR or Employment Law matter: you can contact a member of our team on 0333 006 9489 or [email protected]
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