Flexible working for all – can it work?

On 30th June 2014, the extended right to request flexible working came into force. This means that any employee who wants it can ask for a flexible working arrangement. But can this be made to work for everyone who wants it?  Accommodating multiple requests can be difficult for large organisations let alone for SMEs.  Here are 10 tips for dealing with flexible working requests.

  1. Remember that employees have the right to request a different working pattern, not a right to have it.  Sometimes employees have to be reminded of that at the beginning of the process.
  2. There are only eight statutory reasons for refusing a request, although they are broad enough to encompass most situations.
  3. Employers now have three months in which to respond to a request and can use that time to assess what the impact of flexible working might be, either with a view to accepting the request or with a view to rejecting it.
  4. Receiving a flexible working request can present an opportunity for negotiation with an employee.  For example, you might give a preliminary indication that their original request is unlikely to be granted, but that a different request might be accepted.
  5. The immediate penalty for not dealing reasonably with a flexible working request is relatively small: an employee can claim up to eight weeks pay in a tribunal.  But worse lies in store: constructive dismissal and (indirect) discrimination claims are commonly linked to the poor handling or unreasonable refusal of flexible working requests.
  6. Having a blanket refusal policy is likely to be indirectly discriminatory against women because it is probably still the case that women in the workforce generally bear a greater share of childcare responsibilities and need flexible working arrangements to help them deal with childcare.
  7. If you receive multiple requests, picking names out of a hat isn’t a good idea.  Although ACAS suggest that it might be an appropriate tie-breaker if you receive two very similar requests, I suggest that it is always better to try to find some real differentiating factor between them.
  8. “First come, first served” doesn’t apply.  If A and B work in the same team and you agree to A’s flexible working request, you cannot reject B’s request simply because A got in first.  You need to be able to justify the rejection by reference to the eight statutory reasons.
  9. If A is a single male who wanted the flexibility so that he could fit work around training for Ironman triathlons and B is a working mother, there is the potential for B to bring an indirect sex discrimination claim even if you reject her request for a statutory reason.  It would be something of a test case, but few employers want to have a test case.  Better to try to work out a compromise solution involving both of them.
  10. Try to manage future expectations.  New working patterns agreed as a result of a flexible working request have contractual force and employees whose requests are accepted tend to perceive that the arrangement is absolute and permanent.  But you should try to manage their expectations by making it clear in your policy, or when you agree to a request, that you might have to review things in the future if other employees in the business or in the same team make flexible working requests or indeed if the circumstances in the business change.

This post first appeared on Employment Radar.

Who owns the copyright of a picture taken by a monkey?

In the first of his regular podcasts, IP partner, Nick Kounupias speaks about the recent dispute over the copyright of a picture taken by a black macaque and other recent IP related stories in the press.  Listen to Nick here.

A warning to businesses trading in unsettled or volatile countries

A while ago DMH Stallard interviewed EMS Physio for our report on how SMEs were raising their game and meeting the challenges of exporting abroad. The report entitled “Venturing Abroad, practical advice on getting into new markets overseas”, details a wide range of issues encountered by organisations already exporting successfully.

EMS Physio design and manufacture medical equipment for the medical sector, specifically electrotherapy equipment for physiotherapists. Most of us that have had sports injuries or suffer from aches and strains will be familiar with ultrasound. They export across the globe including the Middle East, Africa and South East Asia and their export performance remains impressive.

However the success of this export strategy has had unforeseen consequences for the business, that led to events seriously jeopardising its future. (more…)

Vast majority of SMEs still concerned about growth

The vast majority (84%) of senior decision makers from British SMEs say they are concerned about the current economic climate, with three in five businesses not confident that the economy will improve over the next year.

This is according to the latest quarterly SME Risk Index from global insurer, Zurich, and polled by YouGov, surveying over 500 senior SME decision makers. (more…)

Growth Deals Bring promise to local economies

With the announcement last week of the Government’s Growth Deals, the first phase of the £6 billion investment into local projects is now underway.

The money will go towards providing support for local businesses to train young people, create thousands of new jobs, build thousands of new homes and start hundreds of infrastructure projects; including transport improvements and super-fast broadband networks.

Full details of the projects that are going on in your area are available here. For more information on the growth deals announced by Coast to Capital LEP click here, and by Enterprise M3 LEP click here.

About SME Rocket

If you are a fast growing SME, no matter your sector, with an average annual turnover of £2.5-£100 million then this blog will give you insight into business critical issues. Your company is one of a number of unsung heroes in the UK economy and you are very important to the UK.

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