Flexible Working Arrangements

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If an employee requests a change to their place of work, hours of work, or days of work, they will need to discuss flexible working arrangements. They can also put in a flexible working request. A flexible working request from an employee must be dealt with appropriately, and employers should have an effective policy in place to deal with such requests.

It is good business practice to include a flexible work policy in the company handbook. The policy should clearly outline the internal procedure for submitting a flexible working request and how to implement the proposed changes.

How Does An Employee Apply For Flexible Working Arrangements?

In requesting a flexible working arrangement, an employee can ask to change any current working arrangement on a permanent or set time basis, and for any purpose including caring for children. It is important to remember that any employee can make a request for flexible work arrangements – even if they do not have a child to care for.

The request must be in writing, and must state:

  • the employee’s name
  • the date on which the request is being made
  • that the request is being made under part 6AA of the Employment Relations Act 2000
  • details relating to the variation which is being requested
  • how long the employee would like the variation to be in place
  • any changes the employee believes the employer will need to make to reduce any effect on the business should the request be approved

How To Respond To A Request For Flexible Work

An employer has an obligation to consider every flexible working request, and must reply, in writing, no later than one month after the request is received. While an employee has the right to request a flexible working arrangement, an employer has the right to reject any request provided there is a good business reason for declining, or if the request is not consistent with the terms of an applicable collective employment agreement. In declining a request, an employer should inform the employee of the reason/s in writing.

Where an application for flexible working arrangements does not contain the information required to enable an employer to make a decision, the employee should be informed as soon as possible.

When Can An Employer Refuse A Flexible Work Arrangement?

There are certain business-related grounds where an employee can refuse the request for flexible hours. These include:

  • the employee’s work cannot be delegated to other staff
  • the business is undergoing significant changes
  • there is a particular reason why recruiting new staff is difficult
  • the arrangement will be too expensive for the company
  • the proposed schedule will impact the quality of work, ability to meet customer demand or productivity

To decline a request, employers must clearly explain why the request was declined and refer to the business-related grounds for refusal.

Ending A Flexible Working Agreement

After a flexible working request has been approved, an employee cannot simply revert back to their ordinary hours when they choose to do so. While a new working arrangement will not necessarily be permanent, an employee must make another official request to end the agreement.

Flexible Hours – Good For Business?

Flexible working arrangements are more than just a growing trend, they’re good for business.

Companies that allow employees to adjust their working hours have reported benefits such as:

  • the ability to attract more appealing, better skilled workers
  • increased ability to retain key staff
  • positive changes to staff morale
  • reduced cost of recruiting and training new staff and increased staff retention rates

For assistance in implementing flexible working agreements, contact Employsure on 0800 568 012.

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