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Could you benefit from new rules about flexible working hours?

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Before 30 June 2014 the right to request flexible working only applied to parents of children under the age of 17 or disabled children under the age of 18 and those caring for an adult.

Since 30 June 2014 this is no longer the case. Now the only requirement is that you must have continuously worked for your employer for at least 26 weeks at the date of the request. Consequently all employees, but not agency workers, have the statutory right to ask for a change to their employment contract to work flexible hours. However you only have a statutory right to request a change once within a 12 month period. You can request a change more than once, but your employer is under no obligation to consider it.

If you feel comfortable doing so, it would be a good idea to have an open and honest discussion about the reason for your request. Your employer is under no obligation to grant your request if it is outweighed by the adverse effect on the business. Certain legitimate reasons for refusal are set out in the legislation. But your employer may come up with an alternative solution to accommodate your needs, which they might not have considered without being made aware of your circumstances.

If you have a situation which requires a shorter period of absence, such as bereavement, then you might want to consider an informal change. A request for flexible working might make it difficult for you to return to your previous contracted hours. Therefore, rather than making a request, you may wish to consider a separate agreement with your employer simply to adapt your hours. After a set period of time you would then revert back onto your employment contract.

Many are concerned that this change could increase the amount of discrimination claims. Whilst we cannot be sure whether this change will have a positive impact on a business it has pushed the legislation into the 21st Century.

If you want further advice on approaching your employer about flexible working, or you feel you have suffered from discrimination then contact a member of our Employment Team.