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    Extending flexible working rights

    From April 6, a further 300,000 employees will receive flexible working rights.  But why is this latest change not really that much of a problem for you?

    Another extension. The statutory right to request a flexible working arrangement currently applies to any employees with children aged under 17 (or 18 if the child is disabled), as well as those who care for dependant adults. However, on April 6 2011, a further 300,000 employees will gain this right.  From that date it’s being extended to include parents of all children aged under 18.  This is being done to clear up some minor legal confusion over eligibility.

    The same process.  But the good news is that the requirements for making this type of request haven’t changed at all.  So any employee with a child aged under 18 must: (1) have at least 26 weeks’ continuous employment with you; and (2) not have made an application in the previous twelve months to you or another employer. If they fail to meet either criterion, you can automatically reject their application.

    Rejecting requests.  Where you can’t refuse on one of these grounds, you still have eight practical business reasons which you can use to decline a request.  These include the burden of additional costs; the detrimental impact on performance; an inability to re-organise work amongst existing staff and/or to meet customer demand.  Provided there’s evidence to back them up, you can select as many as you wish.

    More changes coming?  Unfortunately, this isn’t the last extension we’re likely to see regarding statutory flexible working rights.  This is because the government wants to extend it to all employees from April 2012.  Public consultation on this proposal should begin within the next few weeks and a decision made by the end of the year.

    Tip. Update your flexible working policy to reflect this latest extension. Also brief those responsible for dealing with requests on the changes; remind them that applications can be rejected on a number of grounds.

    “Tips & Advice Personnel”: 17.3.11