How are employers coping with the new flexible working regime?

How are employers coping with the new flexible working regime?

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Author: Kevin McCavish

New rules came into force on 30 June 2014 providing all eligible employees with the right to request flexible working regardless of their reason for doing so.

We surveyed a group of our clients to find out how they are finding life under the new regime.

Have the number of requests increased?

Out of our survey group of 162 clients and contacts, 80% said they had seen no change in the number of requests they had received since the new regime took effect. Indeed, of those nearly 12% had received no requests at all since 30 June 2014. However, the remaining 20% did observe an increase in requests since the end of June and it will be interesting to see if this percentage increases with time.

Who is making the requests?

Interestingly, where employers had seen an increase in the number of requests received, they also identified that requests were coming from different groups of employees, such as those without childcare responsibilities. In particular, several reported an increase in requests from those nearing retirement.

The overwhelming majority of employers who had received requests said these came from their female employees, with only 6 employers saying they received more requests from men, and 3 employers saying the requests were evenly split between male and female employees.

Has the new regime helped?

20% of those surveyed said they had been worried about the potential impact that the new regime would have, although only 4% of them still held those concerns. Just over half of the employers said that the new regime had made it easier to deal with flexible working requests, in particular finding it easier to manage the process without prescriptive timescales being in place.

However, only 16% said that they had been able to accommodate more requests since the end of June. Some put this down to the fact that they had previously allowed any of their employees to make requests even before the new rules were introduced, whereas others said that they already operated under flexible arrangements for example with their staff being on reduced hours, 9 day fortnights and extended days.

Interestingly, some did comment that management still struggled to understand that they could not simply decline a request to work flexibly even though the reasons for declining a flexible working request did not change in June. Others stated that they had found flexible working requests becoming more complex in terms of the arrangements being sought. One employer explained that they had taken the option of introducing a 3 month trial period in respect of all requests to enable both the employer and employee to assess the impact of the flexibility requested in practice before deciding whether or not it could be accommodated.

Summary

From the responses of our survey group it is clear that the first 4 months of the new flexible working regime have been fairly uneventful and that the big influx of applicants that some commentators were predicting has not really materialised. Anecdotally, this relatively small survey group does appear to reflect the experiences of our other clients. Whether this slow reaction to the changes continues to be the case, however, remains to be seen.

Disclaimer

This document is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any of the information given.

About the author

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Kevin McCavish

Partner

03700 86 8802

Kevin is head of the national employment team and has 20 years of experience in providing legal support to HR teams. He has extensive UK and international experience and gives pragmatic and commercial advice on complex redundancy & reorganisation matters, discrimination & equal pay issues as well as providing TUPE advice. Kevin also handles executive appointment & exits and represents clients in the Employment Tribunal and Employment Appeal Tribunal. He also ensures that the Shoosmiths employment team delivers a top quality service to all its clients.

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