Flexible Working – Children

July 5, 2009 7:40 am Published by

Flexible Working – Children

To make a request for flexible working individuals must have been an employee (not an agency worker, self employed etc) of their employer for 26 continuous weeks and not have made another application to work flexibly during the preceding twelve months. They must also be making the request in relation to the care of a child under 17 years old (or 18 years old if the child is disabled) and having responsibility for the child’s upbringing be the child’s mother, father, adoptive parent, guardian or foster parent or the spouse, civil partner or partner of the child’s mother, father, adopter, guardian or foster parent. You cannot make the application before the child is born.

Requests can be made for a wide variety of changes to work patterns including working part-time, home working, job-sharing, flexi-time, term-time working, annualised hours, staggered hours, or compressed hours. Once agreed changes will be permanent.

The process for making an application (in summary) includes the employee submitting a written application setting out the requested work pattern, any effect they anticipate of the proposed work pattern on the employer’s business and how such effects might be addressed in practice. The employer must arrange to meet the employee to discuss the application (within 28 days) and then write to the employee to either agree to the new work pattern and set a start date, or to provide grounds for the rejection of the application and set out the appeal procedure. Applications can only be rejected on specific grounds including the burden of additional costs, detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand, inability to re-organise work among existing staff and detrimental impact on quality or performance.

Employers need to consider requests seriously as, as well as having obligations to consider the request under the specific legislation, some refusals might give rise to sex discrimination claims against the employer. One example might be not considering seriously a request because it comes from a man, when the same request made by a woman would have been properly considered. Another would be the rejection of a woman’s application for shorter hours as in some circumstances could be indirect sex discrimination as it is more likely to detrimentally affect women than men.

The right to request flexible working is a useful tool for working parents and others who qualify, but it is not an absolute right, and employers can find it difficult to deal with requests. Employers should take legal advice when they receive requests on the process and how to avoid sex discrimination claims which could result in uncapped awards against them at Tribunal.

“Victoria Young is an employment solicitor in the Employment Services Team at Blocks solicitors in Ipswich. Victoria recently joined Blocks’ existing highly rated employment lawyers, and has wide experience in dealing with all employment law matters for a broad range of different types of clients. She can be contacted on 01473 343922 or emailed at vy@blockslegal.co.uk

The above is general comment only and individual advice should be taken

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