All employees may be given the right to request flexible working.
At the moment, any employee who is caring for someone, be that a child or an adult, has a legal right to have a request for flexible working be considered by their employer. Nick Clegg has spoken about this right being extended to all employees regardless of circumstances “as soon as parliamentary time allows”.
This announcement has come following the publication of the Modern Workplaces consultation proposal. The idea behind the proposal is that flexible working allows employees to achieve improved work life balance but it can definitely present some challenges for employers.
Obviously, giving individuals a right to request flexible working is different to obligating employers to grant flexible working arrangements but in order to avoid claims of discrimination you need to have solid reasons for refusing requests. There are also legal obligations on employers when they grant flexible working arrangements particular when this includes a right to work from home.
It’s unlikely that all businesses would be aware that, if they grant an employee the right to work from home on a regular basis, then they have a duty of care to ensure that the homeworking environment continues to meet health and safety requirements.
Having a homeworking policy which clearly states the requirements and the steps that you will take as a business to protect homeworkers is a good first step to helping you exercise this duty of care and you can find out more by visiting the Health and Safety Executive website.
We will keep you posted as to whether or not this change gets through parliament and, if it does, we will offer appropriate support in relation to the steps you should take to evaluate a request for flexible working.