Is flexible working too flexible?

shutterstock_63543688With the introduction of the right to request for flexible working, Sarah Buxton walks through how this might affect dental practices.

As of the 30 June 2014, employees with at least 26 weeks’ continuous employment have been able to make a request for flexible working for any reason. The employee’s request may be for a change of hours, or a request to work from home. Only one request can be made in any 12-month period.

Prior to the 30 June, a request for flexible working could be made in order to care for certain children and adults.

The changes were introduced because the government would like to make employment practices in the UK more flexible and family-friendly. It is believed that flexible working allows employees to have a career that fits in with other commitments. By agreeing working patterns that suit both parties, the Government believes that the staff will remain loyal and work harder, allowing you to develop your business and increase productivity. However, having acted for dental practices for many years, employees don’t usually leave work due to inflexibility of hours, it is usually a house move, a career change, or a personality clash.

How it will affect you

I am sure as a dental practice owner, you are concerned about how this will affect your business. It is difficult having many part-time members of staff to ensure continuity of care for patients, and is a huge administrative headache.

The key is to remember that if it doesn’t suit your business, you can reject the request, however, a fair and reasonable procedure should be followed. The first step is to update your flexible working policy. The policy should clearly set out how employees should make a request, include a statement to the effect that the employer will consider the request and will only reject it for one of the eight business reasons and set out reasonable time limits.

The employee triggers the procedure by making a written request. The employer then has the three-month decision period (which can be extended by agreement) within which to consider the request, discuss it with the employee (if appropriate) and notify the employee of the outcome.

The employer can still only refuse a request for one (or more) of the eight reasons, which are set out in the statutes.

Fair and reasonable

It is important that any request is dealt with fairly and reasonably. The employee can make a claim to the Employment Tribunal if you fail to deal with their application in a reasonable manner, fail to notify them of the decision on their application within the decision period, fail to rely on one of the statutory grounds when refusing their application, base your decision on incorrect facts, or treats the application as withdrawn when the grounds entitling the employer to do so do not apply.

Please do not panic if an employee makes a request, give me a call and I will guide you through it.

For further information please call 0113 2010407 or email [email protected]

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