Advice line - Flexible working

New rights for flexible working are coming into effect – but what difference will they really make, asks Kate Moran

From 30 June all employees who have worked for their employer for 26 weeks or more will have the right to request flexible working.  

Until then the right to request has only been available to employees with caring responsibilities for children under the age of 17 (or 18 if the child was disabled) or for certain adults.  

Flexible working can take many forms such as part-time working, job sharing, flexitime, term-time working, and compressed hours (working longer days).

Any requests must be made in writing and it is advisable to start the process well in advance of when you want the new working arrangements to begin.

 Employers will have to consider all requests in a ‘reasonable manner’. They must weigh up the benefits for the employee and the organisation against any adverse business impacts.

They must meet with the employee within 28 days of receiving their request to discuss the proposal and how best it might be accommodated.

There must be an appeal process if the two sides are unable to come to an agreement and the employee is entitled to be accompanied by a colleague or trade union representative at any meetings.

Most employers now recognise that it makes good business sense to provide flexible working opportunities for their staff.

It helps with recruitment and retention , reduces sickness absence, improves motivation and morale. The employee benefits through a better work-life balance.

Yet there is anecdotal evidence that CSP members are facing increasing difficulties when requesting a change in hours – for example after a period of maternity leave.

Often managers are concerned that any reduction in hours will mean those hours are cut from their staffing budget.

Go to any meetings well prepared and with clear suggestions about how your request can be met while meeting service needs.

So how much difference will the new regulations make?

The right to request will remain just that – a right to request, and not a right to change your working hours.

Members facing unreasonable rejection of their proposals should contact their CSP steward for help and advice – or call the CSP enquiry handling unit if they do not have a steward.  For more information, visit CSP website and search for ‘IP21’.  

Kate Moran is the CSP’s head of employment research

Kate Moran

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