Flexible working is a way of working that suits an employee’s needs, for example having flexible start and finish times, or working from home.
In the last few weeks of June 2021, the new Flexible Working Bill was introduced to parliament which proposes that all workers have a legal right to flexible working from day one of employment. This would change the current law where an employee has to work for 26 weeks’ continuous service before having the entitlement to flexible working. If the Bill is passed, it would require employers to include this in their contracts of employment and in job advertisements what flexibility is available. These changes could have huge impacts for all sectors of retail.
All employees have the legal right to request flexible working – not just parents and carers.
This is known as ‘making a statutory application’.
At present time employees must have worked for the same employer for at least 26 weeks to be eligible.
With the pandemic our working lives have changed not just in office blocks but in retail too even to the extent that a 4 day a week was muted in government not long ago.
So is flexible working a legal right?
To some extent, yes there is a legal right, but it is only a legal right to ask, not to have. Employers can, based on business grounds decline a request. However- if the employer disagrees, they must write to the employee giving the business reasons for the refusal. Employees can only make one application for flexible working a year.
Types of flexible working
There are different ways of working flexibly.
Two people do one job and split the hours.
Working hours that cover term time only; thus, allowing more working parents to have a greater work life balance.
Allowing the employee to manage their own hours of work based around their personal needs, but also against a work roster that has been devised to ensure business needs are met too
Working less than full-time hours (usually by working fewer days).
Working full-time hours but over fewer days.
The employee chooses when to start and end work (within agreed limits) but works certain ‘core hours’, for example 10am to 4pm every day.
The employee has to work a certain number of hours over the year but they have some flexibility about when they work. There are sometimes ‘core hours’ which the employee regularly works each week, and they work the rest of their hours flexibly or when there’s extra demand at work.
The employee has different start, finish and break times from other workers.
|Working from home
It might be possible to do some or all of the work from home or anywhere else other than the normal place of work.
Not all of these types of flexible working will work for all businesses but it may be a good idea to start thinking about how your business could cope and what plans would need to be in place to accommodate some of the more feasible working arrangements. By taking some time now to think about it, you could save your future self some time.
Default retirement age has been phased out and older workers can choose when they want to retire. This means they can reduce their hours and work part time.
If an employee decides to apply for flexible working the following must be adhered to
What the email or letter must include
The application must include:
- the date
- a statement that this is a statutory request
- details of how the employee wants to work flexibly and when they want to start
- an explanation of how they think flexible working might affect the business and how this could be dealt with, for example if they’re not at work on certain days
- a statement saying if and when they’ve made a previous application
Go to the members area for a standard letter.
Please not that flexible working rules are different in Northern Ireland.
Photo by Uriel Mont