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THE WOMEN IN BUSINESS TOOLKIT: The Right to Request Flexible Working


THE WOMEN IN BUSINESS TOOLKIT All of the Chapters so the Women in Business Toolkit can be found online on the Women in Business Toolkit section of the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce Website along with an online version of this document. Click the links below or see www.Birmingham-Chamber.com/WIBToolkit for more information.

Having a family and caring for dependents

Promoting Best Practice Mentoring and Sponsorship

Maternity Leave and Pay

Unconscious Bias Training

Paternity Leave and Pay

Transparency in Pay and Promotions

Adoption Leave and Pay Shared Parental Leave and Pay The Right to Request Flexible Working

Promoting Diversity Through Recruitment Flexible Working

Statutory Parental Leave

Diversity Policies and Strategies

Your Rights in the Workplace

Making the Case

Discrimination, Informal and Formal Grievances and The Equality Act (2010)

Making the Case: How to Construct a Business Case and Useful Statistics

Taking a Case to Employment Tribunal


INTRODUCTION: This handy little guide offers you some concise and, we hope, highly practical and useful information on the Right to request Flexible Working. If you like the sound of Flexible Working check out the „Making the Case‟ chapter of the Women in Business Toolkit for lots of helpful advice and statistics to help you make the case to your employer. For more information click on the link on the left-hand page or go to the Women in Business Section of the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce website: www.Birmingham-Chamber.com/WIBToolkit

Connecting you to opportunity... This guide, brought to you by the Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce, is part of the Women in Business Toolkit. This toolkit aims to help inform and empower women and encourage best practice in businesses, helping make the UK a forward thinking, attractive place to work. Whilst useful and informative, it does not aim to provide encyclopaedic knowledge or in-depth legal advice about the topics in question, merely an introductory account. If you have any questions about any of the topics covered in this document please do speak to your HR department/the member of staff responsible for this area or seek professional advice. The Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce features some of the UK‟s oldest and largest Chambers. It has nearly 3,000 member companies that employ over 200,000 plus affiliate organisations representing 15,000 people. It offers extensive services to industry and commerce, having served the interests of business for nearly three centuries, promoting trade locally, nationally and internationally.


Of employers offer at least one form of flexible working...

offer three or more

92% of employers offer part-time opportunities...

...52% offer flexitime

...26% offer some

...52% offer job

...24% offer compressed

employees term-time working

sharing in some roles

working hours in some roles

Around the world...

of employees worldwide would prefer a job with less pay and more flexibility over a higher paying job with less flexibility


WHAT IS THE RIGHT TO REQUEST FLEXIBLE WORKING? As of the 30th June 2014 all employees have the statutory right to request flexible working. Businesses don‟t have to agree to this request, but they are legally required to consider it in a reasonable manner (Click Here for more information). Prior to the 30th June 2014 only carers were able to apply for flexible working under the statutory right to request flexible working although non-carers were able to request flexible working at their/their employer‟s discretion or in line with company policy. A carer is defined as either: 

Someone with the responsibility for the upbringing of a child under 17 or disabled child under 18.

Someone who is either the spouse, partner, civil partner or relative of an adult in need of care; or (if none of the above) living at the same address.

All requests for flexible working made prior to the 30th June 2014 will follow the old system. What follows in this document is an outline of the statutory right to request flexible working post-30th June 2014.


WHAT IS FLEXIBLE WORKING? Flexible working involves altering your usual working hours. Many people request flexible working to fit around family commitments, such as dropping off and collecting children from school or nursery. There are numerous different kinds of flexible working: 

Job Sharing: Dividing the hours of one job between two people.

Part time: Working fewer hours.

Compressed hours: Working full-time hours but over fewer days.

Flexitime: Working certain “core hours” (e.g. 10am-4pm) but being able to alter when to start and end the working day.

Annualised Hours: Working a certain number of hours each year with some flexibility on days and times worked

Staggered Hours: Differing start, finish and break times to other employees.

Working from home: Working remotely in your home or a location other than your normal place of work.

Phased retirement: Now that the default retirement age has been removed, older workers can decide when they want to retire and ask to reduce their hours and work part-time.


HOW DO I APPLY? Applying is simple; you just need to write to your employer including the following in your letter: 

The date the letter was sent.

A statement saying that you are making the application under the statutory Right to request a flexible working pattern.

A statement saying you either have a responsibility as a parent or carer or expect to in the near future.

Say the kind of flexible working you want (job share/part-time etc, hours) and when you want to start.

Explain how your switching to flexible working might affect the business and what could be done to help the transition (e.g. switching to job share: needing to recruit a new member of staff, part time working: being unavailable on certain days and unable to cover as much work). It is worth spending time on this section and making sure it is as convincing and helpful to your employer as possible. Click here for the toolkit chapter on „Making the Case‟ which may provide some useful facts and lines of argument.

Say if or when you have made a previous application for flexible working.

You may also want to include your staff or payroll number.

If you think your employer may lack experience in this area it may be worth talking them through what flexible working is using the information in this guide and suggesting websites for further information such as www.gov.uk (search „Flexible Working‟). If you want to make a request for flexible working for reasons not covered in the statutory right to request you can still use much of this information to help articulate your proposal. The rest of the advice in this booklet is specifically aimed at those using the statutory right to request flexible working.


AM I ELIGIBLE? To be eligible for the statutory right to request flexible working you must:

1. have worked for your employer for at least 26 weeks before making your application.

You can only make one request for flexible working under the statutory Right to request every 12 months.

Remember: Whilst your employer is required to view your application it is up to them to decide whether or not to grant you flexible working or not. Take time to ensure that your application is as convincing as possible. Have a look at the reasons why an employer can reject an application (see later in this document) and try and pre-empt as many of them as possible. Click here or go the www.Birmingham-Chamber.com/WIBToolkit for advice on making the case for offering flexible working.


KEY DATES Once you‟ve submitted your application, your employer will then have three months to make a decision and let you know the outcome (or longer if you agree it with them). During this time they should: 

Invite you to a meeting to discuss the request.

Consider your request carefully.

Respond to let you know their decision.

If your employer requests your request they should offer you an appeal process to challenge their decision.


WHAT IF I CHANGE MY MIND? If you want to withdraw the application let your employer know in writing as soon as you can. If you miss more than two meetings without good reason your employer can treat your application as withdrawn. Similarly, if your employer asks for more (reasonable) information in order to be able to make their decision and you don‟t supply it they might treat your application as withdrawn. Remember: Once your application has been withdrawn you can‟t make another one for 12 months. Throughout the process of applying for flexible working it‟s best to keep good records of correspondence with your employer, just in case you need to refer to it later.

Did you know: You can bring a colleague or trade union representative along with you to your initial meeting with your employer. They can‟t answer any questions for you but can join in the discussion. If you choose to bring a colleague your employer has to give them paid time off to attend. If they can‟t make the meeting you can ask for it to be rearranged to take place within 7 days.


WHAT IF MY APPLICATION IS REJECTED? If your employer rejects your application their letter must explain 1)

Their reasons for rejecting the application,

2)

How your application would have affected the business

3)

How you can appeal.

There are only seven reasons why an employer can reject your application: 

The extra costs will damage the business.

The work cannot be reorganised among existing staff.

The business will not be able to meet customer demand.

They cannot recruit new staff members.

Flexible working will have an effect on quality and performance

There will not be enough work to do within your proposed working times.

They are planning changes to the workforce.

Your employer should offer you a meeting to discuss the reasons for rejecting your application. Do not be afraid to do your own research (e.g. finding out if flexible working has worked in very similar organisations) and politely ask them to elaborate, explain why and what their evidence is. It may well be that there are genuine reasons why your request has not been approved. However, sometimes where flexible working patterns have not been tried before there can be an assumption that it „just won‟t work‟, if you disagree you can try to challenge that in as positive a light as possible, backing up your argument with evidence and being proactive.


HOW CAN I APPEAL? If you are unsuccessful you be able to appeal. However the two main conditions under which employees appeal: 

If your employer did not handle the request in a reasonable manner (i.e. they did not give it due consideration)

You want to challenge information used by the employer.

If your employer did not know something important linked to your application when they made their decision.

You can‟t appeal if you disagree with the business reasons for rejection (unless you feel their information is incorrect that is). To appeal you must send your employer a letter stating your reasons for appealing. It is best to do this as clearly and pragmatically as possible, outlining your evidence. Once your employer has received the appeal letter they have to offer you an appeal meeting within 14 days, with the date agreed between you. You can bring a colleague or union rep along to the meeting. Post-meeting your employer then has 14 days in which to write to you with their decision. Remember: If you miss more than two meetings your employer can treat the appeal as withdrawn (unless you have good reason for missing them) and you won‟t be able to make another application for 12 months.


GOING TO EMPLOYMENT TRIBUNAL If your appeal is unsuccessful there may be scope for making a complaint to an employment tribunal. However, given the time, energy, cost and likely damage to your relationship with your employer this will cause it should only be used as a last resort/if you strongly believe your employer has been acting illegally or discriminatorily. Cases can be made on any of these grounds: 

The employer failed to follow the correct process when handling your application.

Your appeal was refused but you still think that you have proper grounds for an appeal.

You have been dismissed or treated unfairly (e.g. refused a pay rise) as a result of the application.

Click here for more information on taking a case for employment tribunal or see the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce website: www.Birmingham-Chamber.com/WIBToolkit.


CASE STUDY: Offering Flexible Working

Name: Rick Grain Job Role: Managing Director Organisation: Effigy Blinds Company Size: SME Flexible Working Policy: Offers Flexitime

‘We had one case where a

rather than 8 am everyday up to male worker with a young our normal finish time of 4pm family and working wife except Mondays when he would wanted to vary his working finish at 12pm. This allowed him hours. His wife‟s employer time to get home to pick up their was being very inflexible in youngest from nursery. their approach to He explained that her working ‘’We always try to they could leave hours, giving her accommodate requests him in the nursery unsociable hours for variance” until later but this and hours that would incur did not allow her additional charges which would to care for their youngest mean that his wife would have no child after nursery on advantage in continuing to work Mondays. and they would then have to rely My employee approached me on benefit payments rather than with the following proposal: paying their own way. He would work from 7am

I agreed to his proposal,


re-arranging the work pattern (with their agreement of course) of another part-time employee to cover Monday afternoons. There were some very minor teething problems with this arrangement; I became aware that the employee was spending far too much of the first hour posting on Facebook. But after a word or two about his responsibility and the faith we were placing in his good will and integrity he recognised his error and became much more effective and productive. Health and safety wise, there are only a few machines and

activities (e.g. using saws on the shop floor) where accidents and unforeseen breakages could result in serious injury . As a result employees are not allowed to use these machines when alone on the shop floor. In the short times where varying hours mean an employee would be in the premises alone there are almost always other tasks they can be doing in the time. As a result, unless there is a very good reason why we absolutely cannot make changes to allow our staff to be flexible over hours worked we always try to accommodate requests for variance which are usually single instances and fairly rare.�

About Effigy Blinds: As a manufacturing company making window blinds we try to respond to customer’s needs as far as possible including making blinds on the same day if we have stock available. Our staff are highly skilled and experienced and also versatile as we strive to add new products to our range to better serve our customers. Go to: www.effigyblinds.co.uk for more information


JARGON BUSTER: ANNUALISED HOURS: Working a certain number of hours each year with some flexibility on days and times worked. COMPRESSED HOURS: Working full-time hours but over fewer days. EMPLOYMENT TRIBUNAL: Independent judicial bodies designed to resolve disputes surrounding employment rights between employers and employees. FLEXIBLE WORKING: An employment practice that gives employees a certain degree of flexibility over their working hours. FLEXITTIME: Working certain “core hours” (e.g. 10am-4pm) but being able to alter when to start and end the working day. JOB SHARING: Dividing the hours of one job between two people. PART TIME: Working fewer hours. PHASED RETIREMENT: Now that the default retirement age has been removed, older workers can decide when they want to retire and ask to reduce their hours and work part-time. STAGGERED HOURS: Differing start, finish and break times to other employees. STATUTORY RIGHT TO REQUEST FLEXIBLE WORKING: The Right held by employees with caring responsibilities or an adult or child to request a move to a flexible working pattern, and have that request considered by their employer.


USEFUL LINKS: The UK Government’s Website: https://www.gov.uk/flexible-working/overview The flexible working section of the UK government‟s website provides more useful, introductory information on flexible working and signposting for further information. The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) Website: http://www.acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=1283 This particular link will direct you to the ACAS Advisory Booklet on „Flexible Working and Work Life Balance‟. This booklet contains more in-depth information for employers including advice on drawing up a flexible working policy. The Agile Future Forum Website: www.agilefutureforum.co.uk The Agile Future Forum is a business led initiative, featuring some of the UK‟s largest employers such as Tesco, BT and John Lewis. It aims to raise awareness of and share information on workforce agility practices, primarily focusing on flexible working. The information on the findings section of this website may be particularly useful when encouraging your employer to offer flexible working. The Equality and Human Rights Commission Website (EHRC): http://www.equalityhumanrights.com/advice-and-guidance/workingbetter/a-managers-guide-to-flexible-working/ This link will take you to the EHRC „Managers‟ Guide to Flexible Working‟ website. It contains in-depth advice on delivering flexible working and employer case studies This is another document that it may be useful to direct your employer to.


Of employers offer at least one form of flexible working...

92% of employers offer

...offer three or more

part-time opportunities...

...52% offer flexitime

...26% offer some

...52% offer job

...24% offer compressed

employees term-time working

sharing in some roles

working hours in some roles

CBI (2011) Navigating Choppy Waters: Employment Trends Survey

Around the world... of employees worldwide would take prefer a job with less pay and more flexibility over a higher paying job with less flexibility Cisco Systems(2010) Connected Technology World Report


THE WOMEN IN BUSINESS TOOLKIT: WE NEED YOU

We want to make sure that the Women in Business Toolkit stays as up to date and relevant as possible. To do this we need your support: Are there any chapters that you think are missing? Do you have experience of any of the topics included in the toolkit? Could you offer a case study? If the answer is yes to any of the above please get in touch using the contact details on the back of this document. We look forward to hearing from you.


The Women in Business Toolkit was Developed in Partnership with:

ABOUT EUROPE DIRECT: The Europe Direct Information Centres network is one of the main tools of the European Union (EU) to inform European citizens about the EU, and in particular about the rights of EU citizens and the EU‟s priorities (notably the Europe 2020 Growth Strategy) and to promote participatory citizenship at local and regional level. The overall aim of the call is that citizens have easy access to information and the opportunity to make known and exchange their views, in all the fields of the EU‟s activities, in particular, of those having an impact upon people's daily lives. The centres' mission is two-fold: 1. To inform European citizens at local and regional level. They are a key partner of the "one-stop-shop" concept as a first entry point to the European Union for citizens, providing information about the EU, referring them to Your Europe or to specialised information sources and signposting to other services and networks. They give information, advice, assistance and answers to questions about the EU, and in particular about the rights of EU citizens, the EU‟s priorities (notably the Europe 2020 Growth strategy), legislation, policies,


programmes and funding opportunities. 2. To promote participatory citizenship This is achieved through various communication tools (website, social media, publications, etc.) and by interacting with local and regional stakeholders, multipliers and media. They stimulate debate through the organisation of conferences and events and channel citizens' feedback to the EU. The EDIC will provide a grassroots service tailored to local and regional needs, which will enable the public to obtain information, advice, assistance and answers to questions about the EU, and in particular about the rights of EU citizens, the EU‟s priorities (notably the Europe 2020 Growth strategy), legislation, policies, programmes and funding opportunities.

ABOUT EUROPE DIRECT BIRMINGHAM: Europe Direct Birmingham, part of the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce‟s international trade team is a network that extends across the twenty-eight member states and is designed to be the authoritative source of information on Europe and EU initiatives from the citizen‟s perspective. So rather than deal with Trade and Single Market issues, Europe Direct Birmingham is a mine of information regarding rights, opportunities, freedom of movement and employment, language, culture and all the bits and pieces that make up the individual countries under the European umbrella. Europe Direct has access to a considerable number of publications – hard and soft copies – with particular emphasis on schools, young people and mobility and we encourage and support events and initiatives that engage in Europe-themed activity. For more information call Amerdeep Mangat on 0121 607 0105


FOR MORE INFORMATION: Contact Henrietta Brealey, Policy Advisor Chamber House 75 Harborne Road Birmingham B15 3DH H.Brealey@Birmingham-Chamber.com 0121 607 1786


Women in Business Toolkit: Right to request flexible working