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Flexible hours rights in force from today

30 June 2014

The right to request flexible working has been extended to all employees from today (30 June 2014).

Previously only carers, or people looking after children, were entitled to ask their employer to consider allowing them to work flexible hours, but today's change confers the right on a further 20 million employees across the UK.

As part of the right, employees can expect their request to be considered in a reasonable manner by employers – this will be much simpler than the previous burdensome process businesses had to undergo before making a decision.

An employer can only turn down a request for flexible working for one of the following reasons:

  • burden of additional costs;
  • detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand;
  • inability to reorganise work among existing staff;
  • inability to recruit additional staff;
  • detrimental impact on quality;
  • detrimental impact on performance;
  • insufficiency of work during the periods the employee proposes to work;
  • planned structural changes.

The benefits to business are predicted as £55.8m, as against the £39.8m cost to firms.

Ministers believe that flexible working helps keep more people in long term employment, enabling companies to keep hold of top talent, though the new right is expected to be of particular interest to older workers approaching retirement, and young people entering the labour market who may want take up additional training or learning while they work.

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.

"Today is a crucial milestone in how we can help people balance their family life with work and caring responsibilities. And from next year, shared parental leave will allow mums and dads to be able to choose how they care for their newborn in those first precious months."

Business Minister Jo Swinson added: "Extending the right to request flexible working will help to create a cultural shift towards more modern, 21st century workplaces where working flexibly is the norm."

She claimed that of businesses that had allowed staff to adopt more flexible working practices, more than half had reported an improvement in their relationship with their employees and staff motivation, 40% a boost in productivity and 38% a drop in staff absence.

The conciliation service Acas has published a short code of practice to help employers understand the extension to the right and how to process requests. It also has a good practice guide with practical examples to help employers and businesses consider some of the key issues that may arise.

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