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Flexible working rights extended to all

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On 30 June 2014 the law relating to flexible working changed. The right to request flexible working is no longer restricted to those with children or carers of vulnerable adults. Now, all employees with at least 26 weeks’ (6 months) service can request flexible working from their employer. This could be flexibility of the time of work, the place of work or the hours of work.

The right is to make a request – not to be automatically granted a flexible working pattern. However, if an employer receives a request for flexible working that request must be given consideration. When the right to request was restricted to those with children and carers of adults there was a statutory procedure in place which had to be followed. Now, that procedure has gone. An employer is simply required to meet with the employee and give a final response within three months.

David Hodge, Employment Partner at Brethertons LLP says, ““For many, this change will simply be a codification of existing practice. In recent years, the appetite for flexible working has increased as have the facilities to enable it – such as secure remote access, mobile technology etc. This could be seen as an example of the law keeping pace with sociological change. Of course, the right to request does not equate to the obligation to agree and employer’s still have a choice, provided that they are able to show a statutory reason for refusing any request. ACAS has produced a useful guide to assist employers. One key point to note is that the previous statutory process for consideration of a request has been removed and replaced by a less prescriptive one, so even if flexibility has been permitted across the workforce already, internal policies and procedures may need to be reviewed and amended to keep up with this change.”

Brethertons changed its own HR policy in 2011 to accommodate flexible working patterns for all staff; now 30% of Brethertons’ employees are on unique working patterns.  Of those, the vast majority work part time, with 3% of employees working full-time but on a different working pattern to the normal office hours.

Deborah Atkins, HR Partner at the firm said: “We have found that flexible working boosts productivity, staff morale and helps retain top talent in order for us to further develop and grow our business.”

Marie Parkinson, Marketing Executive is just one example of how flexible working is successful for both parties within Brethertons.

Marie says:  “I had worked full time for four years at Brethertons when I left to have my first child. Having the baby changed my perspective. There was a realisation that I needed to find a balance between spending time at home with my baby but at the same time not wanting to jeopardise my career prospects. On returning to work I made a flexible working request. I now work 16 hours a week, half of which I do at home. Dealing predominately with media relations and PR, I find that I am much more productive working flexibly. I plan my week around the days I work in the office. For example, if I need to arrange face-to-face meetings I will be in the office. On the days when I have to write copy and press releases I work at home, as it’s quiet and I can focus on the task at hand. This suits me for childcare arrangements, whilst the flexibility of working in the office and from home allows more to be achieved; benefiting me, my family and Brethertons.”

Julia Wills, a Secretary in the firm’s Private Client team, also works a different pattern to the normal office hours, working from 12:30 – 5:30 in the office. Julia says: “I am a published author of children’s novels and so working afternoons at Brethertons allows me to write in the mornings.  I look forward to going into the office and seeing my colleagues as well as being able to pursue a writing career.  Flexible working is ideal for me.”