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What is a Zero Hours Contract?

Flexible Working Changes

Nick Clegg has recently announced changes to the law regarding flexible work in the UK. In essence, the government has made it easier for employees to work on a flexible basis.

The alterations have given an estimated 20 million people the right to ask for flexible working hours according to the Department for Business and Skills . But what does “flexible working” actually mean?

Generally the phrase “flexible working hours” refers to a contract of employment in which the employee is not restricted to a fixed set of hours each week, but instead their working pattern might involve changes and alterations such as when they work or even where they work.

Before the recent developments the right to flexible working only applied to: the parents of children under 17; the parents of disabled children under 18; and some carers.

However, the new law has given every employee the statutory right to request flexible working if they have been employed by the same company for 26 weeks. If they wish to, employers can extend the option of flexible working to individuals who have been employed for less than 26 weeks, but it is not compulsory.

An employee is only allowed to make one request for flexible working within any 12 month period.

A request for flexible work should be put in writing, declaring that this is a statutory request, the date of the request, and details of any previous requests (date/s of them; whether they were granted). This statement should also explain what particular working conditions the employee is hoping to gain and what impact (if any) they think that this will have on the business, e.g. reducing costs for the company.

What should the employer do if they receive a request for flexible work?

Although not required to do so by law, when an employer has received a request it is recommended that they arrange a meeting with the employee to gain a greater understanding of it. At this stage the employee may want to have a member of a trade union or work colleague with them.

Employers then have to consider the request in a “reasonable manner”.

This means that they must think about the impact that the proposed changes would have on the company. What are the benefits for the employee and the business? How do these weigh up in relation to any adverse effects that could occur?

Since the latest changes it is now required by law that within 3 months of it initially being brought forward the employer must consider the application, decide to either reject or accept it, and complete any appeal processes.

When the employer has reached a conclusion they should let the employee know immediately in writing. If the request is accepted then the employer must alter the employee’s contract accordingly.

If they have rejected the request then they must have a “sound business reason” for doing so, this must also be declared in writing. According to acas, the acceptable “sound business reasons” to reject an application include:

  1. a burden of additional costs on the employer;
  2. a detrimental effect on the ability to meet customer demands;
  3. an inability to re-organise work among existing staff;
  4. an inability to recruit additional staff;
  5. a detrimental impact on quality;
  6. a detrimental impact on performance;
  7. an insufficiency of work during the periods the employee proposes to work;
  8. the employer is planning significant structural changes to the business.

Employees do not have the statutory right to appeal anymore. However, an employer might offer an appeal to demonstrate that they are handling the request in a ‘reasonable manner’ . The employee must then follow the company’s appeal process.

What should an employee do if the application is rejected following the appeal stage? It might be possible to have a straightforward discussion with the boss and come to a conclusion. Alternatively they can use the employer’s internal grievance procedure, seek assistance from their trade union or another third party, or seek assistance from Acas. Bringing a claim to tribunal will incur a fee.

If you would like to find further, more detailed advice about how the recent changes affect you or your company, contact Lanshaws now on 01159 985245.