Flexible working rights granted to all UK employees

New legislation gives extra 20 million people licence to request to work flexibly

Every employee in the UK now has the right to request to work flexibly, with their employer legally obligated to consider the appeal “in a reasonable manner.”

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills claims that the move will mean rights being extended to more than 20 million people across the UK. Previously, only carers or those looking after children had their right to request flexible working enshrined in legislation.

Deputy prime minister Nick Clegg said: “Modern businesses know that flexible working boosts productivity and staff morale, and helps them keep their top talent so that they can grow. It’s about time we brought working practices bang up to date with the needs, and choices, of our modern families.”

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The government predicts that the extension of rights will result in an extra 81,000 flexible working requests per year, taking the number to 182,000. A total of 144,000 are expected to be approved.

Employers will be able to refuse a request only for one or more of eight defined reasons: additional cost burden; negative impact on ability to meet customer demand; inability to reallocate work among existing staff; inability to recruit additional staff; detrimental effect on quality; impact on performance; lack of work needed during the working hours requested by the employee; and planned structural changes.

The government has forecast that the move will benefit UK businesses to the tune of £55.8m, offsetting a projected cost of £39.8m.

Brendan Barber, chairman of industrial relations body Acas, which has published a code of practice for employers to help them consider requests, said: “Our experience from working with thousands of employers is that flexible working is both good for business and employees. The new code will help employers handle flexible working requests in a reasonable manner and fit their specific circumstances and procedures.”

This article was first published by CRN.