Flexible Working

Posted in : HR Updates on 9 July 2014
Helen O'Brien
Personnel and Training Services
Issues covered:

Helen O'Brien writes:

On June 30 the law in England, Scotland and Wales changed so that all qualifying workers have the right to make a flexible working request. The changes are part of the Children and Families Act 2014.

The new law replaces the statutory procedure for consideration of flexible working requests, with a duty on employers to deal with requests in a ‘reasonable’ manner. It does not give employees the right to work flexibly, but provides a right to request it.

Recent research by YouGov for Croner revealed that 26% of employees in those countries are likely to make a request. 18-24 year olds are keenest to ask their employer (32%) and more women than men are likely to make a request (30% and 22% respectively).

The survey also found that 27% of respondents believed that flexibility helped increase productivity and 28% said it reduced sickness absence. Meanwhile, 63% of respondents believed that flexible working created a better work life balance and 42% said it created higher staff morale.

The concept of flexible working has been positively embraced by employees of all ages, with a perceived uplift in productivity and morale, while delivering a better work life balance. Although the overall impression of flexible working is positive, 16% of respondents felt that it could create tension in the workplace.

Flexible Working Rules

The current rules on flexible working will remain in Northern Ireland for the time being but are likely to change to mirror the changes in GB.

So in NI employees with care responsibilities and parents of children aged 16 or under (18 if the child is disabled) are entitled to request flexible working and have their request properly and seriously considered.

When making the application the individual must:

  • Be employed by the organisation (i.e. not a contract or agency worker)
  • Have worked for the organisation for at least 26 weeks
  • Not have made another application for flexible working within the past 12 months.

When an employee starts to work under new flexible working arrangements this is a change in their terms and conditions and should be set out in their contract of employment.

Once you’ve received a request you need to:

  • Write to the employee confirming you have received the request.
  • Arrange to meet with the employee within 28 days after receiving their application – the employee can take a colleague or trade union representative employed by the organisation to the meeting.
  • Use the meeting to discuss thoroughly the request and how it might work successfully
  • Let the employee know what the decision is within 14 days of the meeting.

Do's and Don'ts When Considering a Request for Flexible Working 


  • Keep an open mind
  • Be positive about the idea from the start
  • Focus on what tasks need to be achieved and getting the job done, rather than the number of hours worked
  • Analyse the job to see how it can be better fitted around the person
  • Consider objectively any suggestion that a job could be done partly or fully from the employee’s home
  • Look at key issues such as managing the person, and health and safety, with a positive “can-do” attitude
  • Take into account how any new arrangements might affect other members of the team and anticipate any fears they may have
  • Look carefully and realistically at issues such as costs, what tasks need to be done and how long they take, and how new arrangements will work in practice
  • Look at the long-term implications of any new working arrangements


  • Dismiss the idea out of hand
  • Assume flexible working means fewer hours or less continuity
  • Concentrate on how many hours will be worked
  • Assume the job can only be done one way and the person must be fitted around the job
  • Assume that a job cannot be done from home
  • Assume issues such as line management and health & safety will be too difficult to cope with
  • Ignore the feelings and fears of other members of the team
  • Assume any new arrangement will sort itself out as it goes along
  • Forget that a change in someone’s terms and conditions is permanent and must be right for both the employer and employee for the foreseeable future.

With the introduction of the legislation into the rest of the UK it will certainly be interesting to see to what degree requests increase and how it affects businesses.

This article is correct at 21/10/2015

The information in this article is provided as part of Legal-Island's Employment Law Hub. We regret we are not able to respond to requests for specific legal or HR queries and recommend that professional advice is obtained before relying on information supplied anywhere within this article.

Helen O'Brien
Personnel and Training Services

The main content of this article was provided by Helen O'Brien. Contact telephone number is 028 2564 4110 or email HelenOB@pts-ni.com

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