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Flexible working

Policy Statement

The statutory right to request flexible working is available to parents and those with parental responsibility for children up to the age of 16. Parents of disabled children up to the age of 18 and employees who are carers of adults also have this right.

Harrow Council has decided to extend access to the Right to Request Flexible Working policy to all employees, to open up the opportunity to strike a better balance between working and personal responsibilities. This addresses one of the most commonly raised benefits sought by staff.

The right to request flexible working is a right to make a request, not a right to have flexible working and the legislation provides a number of reasons why a request can be declined, if there is a sound business reason for doing so. Requests made under the legislation (i.e. paragraph 1 above) will be considered ahead of other requests and the needs of the service will prevail for all requests.

This policy provides flexibility over and above the requirements of the Employment Act 2002 and the Work and Families Act 2006 (as amended in 2008) and forms part of a package of employment practices aimed at increasing flexibility and improving employees’ ability to balance home and work responsibilities.

What is the right to flexible working?

All employees who meet the criteria listed below have the right to apply to work flexibly, have their application considered seriously and only refused where there is a clear business reason for doing so.

The employee can ask their Manager to consider a permanent change to their terms and conditions of employment in relation to:

  • the hours that they work
  • the times when they are required to work
  • the place at which they are required to work (as between home and place of
    business)

Who can apply?

Harrow Council has decided to extend access to the Right to Request Flexible Working policy to all employees provided they meet the following criteria:

  • They must have 26 weeks continuous service
  • They must make their request in writing
  • They must not have made another application to work flexibly under the right during the past 12 months.

Employees in the following groups have a statutory right to request flexible working. If two employees within the same team apply for the right to request flexible working, those with a statutory right to request will take priority.

Parents

  • They must have a child under 16 years old (18 if disabled)
  • They must have responsibility for the upbringing of the child and be making the application to enable them to care for the child or
    They must be either;
  • the mother, father, adopter, guardian or foster parent of the child; or
  • married to or the partner of the child’s mother, father, adopter, guardian or foster parent

Carers of Adults

  • must be or expect to be caring for an adult in need of care
  • must be the spouse, partner, civil partner or relative or who lives at the same address as the person being cared for (a relative is a mother, father, adopter, guardian, special guardian, parent-in-law, son, son-in-law, daughter, daughter-in-law, brother, brother-in-law, sister, sister-in-law, uncle, aunt or grandparent. Step relatives are also included.

How would an employee apply?

In order to have their request considered the employee must:

  • apply in writing ensuring they date the application;
  • state the application is being made under the statutory right to request a flexible working pattern, or the extended right to request working flexibly.
  • state whether a previous application has been made and, if so, when it was made
  • confirm(if applicable) their responsibility for the upbringing of the child and that they are either:
    the mother, father, adopter, guardian, foster parent;
    or married to or the partner of the child’s mother, father adopter, guardian or foster parent.
  • Or that they are caring for an adult in need of care
  • explain what effect, if any, the employee thinks the proposed change would have on their employer and how, in their opinion, any such effect might be dealt with
  • specify the flexible working pattern applied for
  • state the date on which they want the change to become effective

Considering the application

The Manager must arrange to meet with the employee to discuss the request within 28 days of receiving the proposal. If two employees within the same team apply to request flexible working, those with a statutory right to request will take priority.

The employee may be accompanied at the meeting by their trade union representative or work colleague.

The meeting is an opportunity to discuss any problems and consider alternatives (see Option to Trial).

If the request is to be agreed, the Manager must notify the employee of the variation that has been agreed and the date on which it will take effect – within 14 days of the meeting, in writing. It is important that this notification has been dated.

If the request is refused for sound business reasons, the Manager must notify the employee within 14 days of the meeting, in writing, setting out the grounds for refusal explaining why they apply in the circumstances. The employee must be informed of the formal procedure to follow if they wish to appeal against the decision (See Appeal Against Refusal).

Advice should be sought from HR before any application is refused.

If a request is refused no further request may be made for 12 months.

Reasons for refusing the request

If the request is rejected the Manager must inform the employee in writing, setting out the grounds for refusal.

Legitimate reasons for rejecting a request might be:

  • Additional cost to business is unacceptable
  • Detrimental impact on quality or performance or ability to provide a service.
  • Inability to meet customer demand
  • Inability to organise work within available staffing

Appeal against refusal

Where a request has been refused, the employee has the right to appeal.

The employee must Appeal in writing, and dated, setting out the grounds for the Appeal against the decision, within 14 days of receiving written notification from their Manager that the request has been refused.

If the Manager then decides to accept the request it must notify the employee of the variation and the date it is to start within 14 days of receiving the employee’s appeal notification.

If the Manager does not accept then the Appeal Meeting must take place within 14 days of receiving the employee’s appeal notification.

The employee can choose to have their Appeal heard either by a Director or Head of Service. The employee may be accompanied at the Appeal Meeting by their trade union representative or work colleague.

The Director / Head of Service must notify the employee of its decision in writing within 14 days of the date of the Appeal Meeting. If the Appeal is accepted the employee must be informed of the variation agreed to and the date on which it is to take effect.

If the Appeal is refused, the Director / Head of Service must set out the grounds for the refusal in writing, explaining why they apply.

The meeting should be arranged by the employer at a time and place convenient to both parties (see Time Limits).

Time limits

Time limits can be extended where the employer and employee agree. A written record of the agreement must be made which states which period the extension relates to and the date the extension is to end. This must be dated and sent to the employee. This is to prevent a dispute arising as to whether the employer has complied with the time limits required or not.

Conditions

Once agreed any change will become a permanent change to the employee’s terms and conditions. Employees will not be entitled to revert back to their old work pattern.

HR should be notified of any change so that they can send the employed a revised statement of particulars setting out the new working arrangements.

Managers and employees need to be aware that changes to working arrangements may have implications on annual leave, payment of Bank Holidays, sickness absence payments, etc.

Option to trial

As part of the discussion relating to a proposed change in working arrangements, alternatives may be suggested. Occasionally, it may be appropriate to “trial” a change to working arrangements on a temporary basis. This gives both the employee and the employer the opportunity to try out the change before a decision is made whether it can become a permanent change.

The decision on whether to offer a trial period rests with the Manager but the employee will need to agree. The temporary arrangement should be confirmed in writing to the employee specifying the duration of the trial period.

At the end of the trial period, the Manager will meet with the employee to discuss the trial and make a decision on whether the temporary arrangement can be made permanent. The Manager’s decision will be confirmed in writing.