Introduction to this document

Flexible working policy

Use our policy statement to implement flexible working practices to improve the work-life balance of your staff. Our policy statement sets out the statutory right for employees who have 26 weeks’ continuous employment to request flexible working arrangements, together with the relevant application procedure and the grounds for refusal.

Statutory rights

All employees with 26 weeks’ continuous employment now have the statutory right to request a change to the number of hours they work, the times they work or the place where they work (between their home and your place of business). This is not a right to have flexible working but a right to request it. Your obligation under the legislation is simply to deal with the request in a reasonable manner and to notify the employee of your decision on their application (which includes any appeal) within three months and then, if you want to reject the employee’s request, to do so on one or more of a number of statutory grounds.

Indirect discrimination

A refusal to permit a female employee to work on a part-time basis (usually on their return from maternity leave) may result in a claim of indirect sex discrimination as a provision requiring employees to work full time has a disproportionately adverse impact on women due to the fact that women are more likely to be the primary child carers. If your requirement has a detrimental impact on the particular female employee in question, you would then need to be able to objectively justify your decision as being a proportionate means of meeting a legitimate business aim. Therefore, where a female employee makes a flexible working request on their return from maternity leave, don’t just assume that if you follow a reasonable procedure and then turn them down, you will be home and dry. You need to be alive to the risk of an indirect sex discrimination claim so negotiate with them and explore all available options such as job shares, part-time working, homeworking, etc. In addition, bear in mind that you are under a duty to make reasonable adjustments to working practices in relation to disabled employees.