The new Flexible Working Regulations 2014 come into force today (30 June 2014) and introduce a number of significant changes, including the following:
All employees with 26 weeks' service can now make a request to work flexibly. The right is no longer limited to parents of children under 17 (or 18 if the child is disabled) and certain carers.
The previous strict statutory timetable for considering flexible working requests has been replaced by a new duty on employers to deal with requests in a "reasonable manner" and within 3 months of a request being made.
A statutory code of practice (currently in draft form) will set out guidelines which employers must follow when dealing with flexible working requests.
It is important to note, however, that employers can still refuse a request on one of the eight statutory grounds which are unchanged and include the (broad) "burden of additional costs" and "detrimental impact on quality" grounds.
Although these changes may sound alarming to employers, it should be remembered that it is a "right to make a request for flexible working" and not a "right to flexible working". It will be interesting to see what impact these changes have in practice but, in the meantime, we recommend that employers review their existing flexible working policies as soon as the statutory code of practice comes into force, which should be on 30 June 2014.