From 30 June 2014, all employees will be entitled to make flexible working requests. We anticipate employers will see a significant increase in requests particularly from its older workforce, who may regard flexible working as an attractive alternative to retirement.

Key changes

1. All employees with at least 26 weeks’ continuous service, irrespective of child of dependent caring responsibilities, will have the right to request flexible working.

2. The existing statutory procedure an employer must follow to deal with a flexible working request will be scrapped. Instead, an employer must consider a request in a ‘reasonable manner’. ACAS have published a new guidance booklet giving practical advice to employers about handling requests.

3. An employer must inform the employee of its final decision within three months of the date of the employee’s application.

4. An employer may treat an employee’s application as withdrawn if the employee fails to attend a meeting and any re-convened meeting to hear their request provided the employer first informs the employee.

What remains the same?

1. A flexible working request must be made in writing containing prescribed information including the effect on the employer and ways to deal with any such effect.

2. A request may be made once a year.

3. The eight business reasons to refuse a request remain.

4. Maximum compensation for failure to follow a fair procedure is eight weeks’ pay (currently capped at £464 per week).

5. An employer must make decisions objectively avoiding discrimination.

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