How to deal with flexible working requestsPosted in : Seamus Says - Employment Law Discussion on 18 October 2017
Q. We've had a flexible working request in from an employee. It's the first we've had for some time. It's the very first from a single male employee who has no children. Any advice?
Seamus: Well, these, I suppose, the businesses and employers can expect to get these applications for flexible working, the position has been from the 5th of April 2015, any employee that is applicable can apply for flexible working. Gone are the days when you had to have a child, 17 or 18 for a disabled child, or that you were a carer.
Not everybody can make these applications. So, it really is about the employer carefully considering the application. I do mean considering it, not just simply saying it's not going to work and we're not looking at it, considering it. Then working through the process of is there a genuine business reason as to why we wouldn't be able to grant this or is it something that we can work with?
Often, what can happen is that maybe the person doesn't get exactly what their application is for, but they might get some sort of variation that they can work with the employer and align that. But the employer would have to have a legitimate business reason for not permitting the application for flexible working.
Scott: So, it applies to everybody. In Northern Ireland, we follow all the procedures, so you've got to be there with your business case. The Statutory procedure on flexible working requests still effectively applies to that.
Seamus: That still applies here in Northern Ireland, different across the water now, but it does apply here in Northern Ireland. The way and the manner that the employee can bring these applications, gone are the days where you had to fill out a specific form provided by your employee, all the employee needs to do is submit this on an email and just has to say their application clearly.
Scott: So, if I looked like a surfer dude, I don't, but if I did, and I want to take every Friday off to go to Donegal to go surfing, that could be the application and you couldn't say, "You don't have any kids, so you can't get it."
Seamus: Certainly, you could make the application, but just because you make the application doesn't mean that you're going to get. . .
Scott: You have to state the business case...
Seamus: And the employee would have to look at, "Is it feasible for this employee to have every Friday off?" There might be certain businesses where it's not possible or it might be that business can be moved to another day and it can be granted. But I suppose the other thing is that the employer should be aware that if an application is rejected, the employee can appeal and there should be an appeal procedure that should be put in place in terms of that. Also, just for the employee, if the application is granted, that it may be permanent.
I suppose that's part and parcel of owning the business. The employer will be looking for some security in relation to when the employee's got to be in work and not going to be in work. It's just that it's not a temporary arrangement. Sometimes the employer would say it's permanent and that's what it's going to be going forward and the employee has to accept that.
Scott: You have to agree that it's temporary or it's going to be permanent.
More on Policies & Procedures
- Employee Handbook: Overview, Status and Purpose
- Commercial Law for Employers: Entitlement to Annual Leave
- Email/System Access for Long-term Sick Employees; Dismissal During the Probationary Period; Dealing with Sickness Patterns
- Celia Luisa Pereira Da Costa v Summer Garden Salads Limited 
- Can an employee claim constructive dismissal if a work colleague makes a discriminatory comment to them and the employer fails to discipline the colleague?
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