Sarah Buxton, FTA Law Employment Solicitor, looks at flexible working requests and how best to deal with them…
Sometimes a member of staff may have a change in circumstances that could revolve around, for example, childcare, and it might mean that they can’t work their contracted hours anymore.
However, if their working hours were more flexible then they would still be able to work for the same amount of time as they do now.
Many businesses adopt flexible working hours these days and you might have seen a rise in staff asking about flexible working in recent years. So, here is a look at how to handle them and where you stand as a practice owner.
Right to request
This isn’t commonly known about in many workplaces, but everyone has the right to make a flexible working request after 26 weeks of service. Most people think that only women who have been on maternity leave can make a flexible working request, but that isn’t the case.
The request can be related to anything, whether that be a change of hours, a change in days, or a request to work from home. When a request is made, it is important that you go through a correct procedure. As a business you should have a flexible working procedure in place, or a written policy within a contract.
It’s about compromise
There aren’t any right or wrong answers when it comes to flexible working arrangements, because every situation is going to be unique to that employee.
There will be reasons for the employee putting in that request and there will also be considerations that you as an owner will have to consider, such as about how it will impact on the business.
It is all about compromise and trying to find a solution that is right for both parties.
I dealt with an issue like this for a practice in London, whose receptionist had put in a flexible working request after being on maternity leave.
She wanted an hour off at the end of every day and to come in an hour late in the morning for childcare purposes. Obviously, you can’t recruit someone to cover 8.30am until 9.30am and then one hour later in the day, and they were unable to re-organise their staff.
So, we had numerous business reasons as to why we couldn’t grant that request and it was rejected. Now this might be the route you have to go down because you have no other choice. However, with the current recruitment issues in the industry, you might want to grant the request and just somehow find a way around it.
If you do reject a request, like with this example, you have to lay out your business reasons as to why you cannot grant a flexible request. And that is all you really need to do, there aren’t a lot of hoops to jump through.
At the end of the day, it is your decision, and you have to decide whether you have the capacity in your business to move things around, or whether sometimes, it is just not possible.
And employers should also consider the wider implications of any decision. If you refuse the request and the employee leaves, that means you are then into a potentially costly recruitment process. So, it’s important to not only look at the request on an immediate level, but also to assess the possible scenarios that might arise from the decision you’re considering.