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National Work-Life Week makes us consider flexible working requests

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This week is National Work-Life Week; a week created by charity, Working Families, to promote wellbeing at work and a healthy work-life balance.  Howard Robson, Employment Partner, reviews the week and the implications this has on businesses when it comes to family friendly policies and flexible working requests.

Research carried out by Working Families has shown that more and more parents are having to prioritise work over spending time with their children, with 40% of working parents saying that work stops them spending time with their children often or all of the time.  It seems that those who do tend to take advantage of flexible working practices are more likely to be women and those on higher incomes.  40% of young fathers have told the charity that they would be willing to take a pay cut to improve their work-life balance and spend more time with their families.  Being a family friendly and flexible employer not only recruits fresh talent looking for these benefits, but also increases employee retention, productivity and engagement.  It can also lead to reduced sick leave, as 29% of parents reported feeling burned out often or all the time, leading to more people being on sick leave with exhaustion and stress.

In a time when technology allows more of us to work from home and essentially be contactable 24/7, National Work-Life Week is designed to inspire us to review how many hours we are working, with one particular day during the week dedicated to encouraging employees to go home on time. “Go Home on Time” Day is on Wednesday 5th October, and has been given its own particular day as research from Working Families shows that many parents are working far longer than their contracted hours every week.

The whole week is a time for employers to consider their policies and if a flexible working policy does not exist, whether it is time to create one.  Flexible working is not a right, but there is certain Acas guidance that explains how employers should react to flexible working requests; The Statutory Code of Practice: Handling in a reasonable manner requests to work flexibly (Acas Code) and The right to request flexible working: an Acas guide.

An employee can request flexible working under the legislation for three variations; a change to the times, hours or location they work, and there are certain eligibility criteria they must meet.

Both employee and employer have certain responsibilities when a flexible working request is made.  On receiving the request, an employer must deal with this in a reasonable manner, meaning they must discuss the request with the employee as soon as possible.  At this meeting the employee is allowed to be accompanied and it should take place in a private location.  Following this meeting, the employer should let the employee know as soon as they can the decision they have made, but it must be within three months of the request date.  Any decision the employer makes must be objective and can be appealed by the employee should the request be denied. 

Flexible working requests should be considered seriously when they are made by an employee.  Should they not be handled correctly by an employer, an employee can bring a tribunal claim on the grounds of the claim not being considered reasonably, failure to notify the employee of any decisions and whether a decision was made based on incorrect facts, to name  few.  Disability discrimination can also be brought into a claim if the reason the employee is making a request is related to an illness or disability they may have.  If a request is handled incorrectly an employee may also feel compelled to resign and bring a constructive dismissal claim.

So, during this Work Life Week, take some time to consider your business and the flexible working and family friendly policies you may have or would like to introduce.  If you have an employee who has made a flexible working request and you’re unsure how to proceed, then you can contact us at Warner Goodman Employment on 02380 717717 or email employment@warnergoodman.co.uk.

ENDS

This is for information purposes only and is no substitute for, and should not be interpreted as, legal advice.  All content was correct at the time of publishing and we cannot be held responsible for any changes that may invalidate this article.