Employers may believe that the law on flexible working has generally taken a pro-employee shift and are wondering how the right to request flexible working becoming a ‘day one’ right will affect them when the Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Act comes into force in April. Greg Clark, employment associate, B P Collins explores a recent case involving the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), which acts as a reminder that the scales haven’t tipped too far in an employee’s favour and there won’t necessarily be an overwhelming increase in the number of employees being granted flexible working as a result of the new legislation.

For background, Miss Wilson was a manager at the FCA who lost her tribunal case over her right to work from home full-time. She was, by all accounts, a very competent employee who was performing well when working full time at home.  Despite her proficiency, the Employment Tribunal confirmed that there isn’t a right to require an employer to allow exclusive remote working, even if her performance from home was excellent. This may be greatly reassuring to employers, who are often of the view that there is considerable value in face-to-face and in person interaction at the office at least some of the time.

Will flexible working requests ramp up?

After the Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Act comes into force in April, employers are anticipating more requests from employees to change their hours of work. Many are wondering what to do if an employee who they have recruited to a full-time role requests part-time working on their first day. Every case will depend on its own facts, but the expectation is that Employment Tribunals will be similarly reluctant to require an employer to grant part-time working to those they have only just hired on full-time contracts.

Timing is everything

Employers still need to be careful about timing. Although the tribunal agreed that the FCA had based its decision on correct facts, the FCA still had to pay Miss Wilson one week’s pay because it had made its decision too slowly. From April, employers will need to decide requests more quickly than ever as the time limit will be decreasing from three months to two months.

Consultation commitments

Employers will also have more to do within the shorter time limit. This is because of a new requirement that employers who want to reject a request will have to arrange a consultation meeting with the employee. It’s really important that employers update their policies to reflect this.

Reasonable adjustments

Employers must also keep in mind that an employee with a disability might be making a flexible working request to ask for reasonable adjustments. If they are, the employer must make sure that they are complying with their legal obligation to make reasonable adjustments, even if they’d otherwise be able to turn the request down.

The Act marks a significant step towards assisting employees with a better work-life balance through flexible working arrangements. However, with the increased number of requests allowed, timely responses required of employers, and an emphasis on consultation, employers must take steps to ensure they are well equipped to deal with these changes.

If you have any questions or require assistance regarding flexible working or any other employment matter, do not hesitate to contact B P Collins’ employment team. HR2Help at B P Collins is also available if you need HR support and advice on a regular or ad hoc basis.  To get in touch, please email enquiries@bpcollins.co.uk or call 01753 889995.

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Greg Clark
Jo Davis
Practice Group Leader

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