Top 10 tips: how to deal with the ‘right to request’ extension

On 30 June 2014, the right to request flexible working will be extended to all employees with at least 26 weeks’ service. Employers will be obliged to consider requests in a ‘reasonable manner’ within a 3 month period. Anna Fletcher, Director at Wragge Lawrence Graham & Co LLP, has put together ten key tips to successfully deal with flexible working requests whilst staying within the law.

Tips

Anna Fletcher1.

Have a clear policy

Your flexible working policy is key to ensuring transparency and consistency. You could revise your existing policy to accommodate the new legislation, or take the opportunity to prepare a new one. If you can develop your policy in conjunction with your employees, this will encourage engagement and make it more relevant to your business.

2.

Secure engagement amongst managers

Create flexible working ‘champions’ amongst senior managers, to explain the business benefits such as employee engagement and increased morale, and to ensure that a ‘can do’ attitude spreads right through your business. This will help to make flexible working a norm.

3.

Communicate Communicate Communicate

You need to make sure that all employees know that the right to request applies to everyone. Draw their attention to where they can find the policy and publicise senior level commitment.

4.

Don’t be afraid of the floodgates

Remember that each request should be considered on its own merits – employers can refuse a request if it falls within the statutory business reasons for doing so. It is the consistency of the process that is important.

5.

Don’t make assumptions and avoid a knee-jerk response

Consider each request carefully looking at the “benefits of the requested changes in working conditions for the business, and weighing these against any adverse impact of implementing the changes”. Be open-minded!

6.

Prepare in advance of a meeting

Managers should prepare well for the discussion with the employee. It’s a good idea to use HR as a sounding board. Give employees time to prepare too – and make sure the time and place of the meeting is convenient to them.

7.

Listen!

At the meeting, listen carefully to the employee’s point of view, and ensure the employee understands the business’ needs. In either direction, don’t make impulsive decisions.

8.

Compromise

Before declining a request, ask yourself if there is another way. Can you accommodate more people than you think? Act in a collaborative way with the employee and use the review periods.

9.

Evidence your decision making

If you accept the request, establish the start date. If you reject it, set out clear business reasons in writing, including how these apply to the specific request and any appeal process.

10.

Remember what’s important

Be output focussed and trust your employees. If it’s good for the business and the employee it’s a “win-win”!