Category: Legal Rights

Flexible Working

Is 2016 the year of a revolution in flexible working? – Predictions for the year ahead and the future of work.

For those of you seeking and perhaps struggling to find fulfilling flexibile working opportunities at work, 2016 be the year of change?

The Christmas break seems to have long since faded away as we have been thrust back into the routine of everyday life. Most of you will be reading this as you have either made a commitment to find a new job in 2016 or you are browsing to see what other opportunities there might be for you. Perhaps you are hoping the ‘grass is, indeed, greener’?

A staggering 14.1 million British workers are interested in flexible working so there has never been a more relevant time to talk about it – as changes in legislation, society and technology all converge. The traditional model of nine to five might not be extinct, but it’s probably fair to say that it is endangered necessitating employers to focus more on the output of workers rather than the time spent in the office.

Flexible working benefits business

The majority of us will agree that more companies need to open their doors to flexible workers and challenge the outdated perceptions associated with it. To make flexible working work, employers need to see the killer benefits that working from anywhere or on a part time basis will bring. They need to provide employees with the right tools to keep communication channels open, help their workforce to become more productive, and provide them an environment of trust.

According to research by EY, 82% of managers do believe flexible working benefits their business; two thirds mention increased motivation, commitment and even employee relations but we need to see faster adoption and adaptation of working policies.

Flexible working driven by innovations and employee preferences

Innovations in technology and trust will have a huge part to play if we are to witness a revolution in work flexibility. Work is no longer a place that we go to – it could be anywhere anytime and accessed via numerous devices. In the next five years it is estimated that approximately 40 percent of the workforce will be contractors working typically from co-working spaces or remotly – all supported by improved and integrated technology.

But while the technology certainly enables workforce mobility, it is basic economics and employee preferences and expectations that are driving its explosive growth. Most people are thrilled to avoid those long commutes or are able to comfortably juggle home life with work life. The legislation that came out last year giving everyone the right to request flexible working has started to level the playing field. Fathers are now the front line and the ones needing support so that they can break the mould and feel confident in requesting flexible working. This is turn is starting to take away the ‘mother’ stereotype and makes it much more the norm in society.

Nobody really knows where we are going to, because everything in the world of work is changing too fast. The employee of yesterday is very different to the employee of tomorrow. Technology will no doubt play a massive part in how we all work and how businesses adopt flexible working and is fast becoming the most important requirement for workers today – particularly for Millennials as well as parents.

Your employer cannot avoid flexible working

So if you are seeking flexibility in your job, and have struggled to find it, perhaps 2016 is the year you will see some changes and greater opportunities out there as businesses start to adapt. We urge you to challenge employers and educate them on the benefits of resourcing experienced professionals, like you, on a flexible basis. Have confidence that this trend is here to stay and you will soon be part of a majority not minority seeking workplace flexibility.

Companies should start to understand that they will be left behind if they don’t grasp the changing workforce demands and invest in supporting technologies and gain a strong belief that flexibility is a win, win.

Can 2016 really be the year of a revolution in work flexibility? Watch this space.


Flexible WorkingAuthor: Amanda Bixby. Amanda works for Workpond, a resourcing consultancy helping experienced professionals find flexible opportunities. 

Returning to Work - Why it's More Important Now Than Ever

Returning to Work – Why it’s More Important Now Than Ever

In a recent case in the Court of Appeal, Wright v Wright the issue of spousal maintenance once again found itself in the spotlight. This is a vital issue for any Stay-At-Home Mother or parent thinking about reducing her hours. When you divorce, there is no longer an automatic right to a part of your husbands income. Courts now expect you to ‘Get on With it’, find a job and become self sufficient, especially when you have children older than five. Although it does still depend on your circumstances. Of course you are probably not planning on a divorce, however marriages do change over time and you need to be prepared for every eventuality. We asked Family Lawyer Jonathan West to comment.

The Case on Spousal Maintenance

The case involved an application by the husband, a millionaire equine surgeon, to reduce the maintenance payments that he was providing to his wife after their divorce. At the time of the hearing the wife was 51 years of age, the husband 59 and the children were 16 and 10 – the eldest being at boarding school.

Their marriage had lasted 11 years and after they separated Tracey Wright received a £450,000 mortgage free home and maintenance of £75,000 a year – of which £33,000 was spousal support for her own personal upkeep.

The question for the court was essentially what was a reasonable period of time for spousal maintenance to continue in the circumstances of the case.

UK and Wales Spousal Maintenance vs. Europe

In the jurisdiction of England and Wales, whilst for decades there has been a duty on courts to consider a clean break outcome in divorce, many cases resulted in substantive joint life orders, or nominal ones.

It is not at all uncommon for a spouse – statistically usually the husband – to end up paying periodical payments to the other spouse for a period often significantly longer than the marriage lasted.

Many European countries severely limit maintenance terms – for example Sweden, terms are ordinarily between one and four years unless there are “extraordinary reasons” for granting a longer period, which even then, where possible, would be time limited.

Move south wards to the Czech Republic, maintenance orders are incredibly rare – in 2001 statistics show that there were just 932 maintenance orders out of over 30,000 divorces.

In The Netherlands there is a maximum 12 year term and if the marriage has lasted under five years maintenance will be limited to a maximum of the same length of the marriage. Denmark operates a similar system.

Even our nearest neighbours, The Scots, operate a system whereby maintenance will usually only last for three years save in exceptional circumstances.

Recent Changes in the UK

Over the course of the last few years in England we have seen a retreat from the joint lives orders for maintenance which will (typically) only terminate when a wife remarries or dies.

In 2008 Sir Mark Potter said the wife had no right to keep on living at the same standard:

“… On the exit from the marriage, the partnership ends and in ordinary circumstances a wife has no right or expectation of continuing economic parity … A clean break is to be encouraged wherever possible.”

Lady Hale said partners are expected to be self sufficient:

“the ultimate objective is to give each party an equal start on the road to independence” and what she refers to as self sufficiency. She emphasized that the court was seeking provision that enabled a gentle transition for the payee from the standard of living enjoyed during the marriage to the standard that he/she could expect as a self-sufficient individual.

These judgements indicate that the court has been moving for some time away from lifelong orders to a more considered approach of guiding the parties towards independence from one another and self sufficiency.

The Outcome of Wright vs. Wright

Whilst we have been moving away from lifelong orders what is interesting from the Wright case is the language used by the Judge – Lord Justice Pitchford – who said that Mrs Wright must “just get on with it” when he upheld the earlier court’s decision to set a tapered reduction of the personal maintenance payments over the next five years. The judge expects her to take steps to obtain employment like “vast numbers of other women with children.”

Lord Justice Pitchford was of the view that it was “imperative that the wife go out to work and support herself” and that “The time had come to recognise that, at the time of his retirement, the husband should not be paying spousal maintenance.”

“The wife had done nothing since 2008 to look for work, retrain or to prepare herself for work.” He continued that, “There is a general expectation that, once children are in year two, mothers can begin part-time work and make a financial contribution” and that, “the order was never intended to provide the wife with an income for life”.

What it Means for You

This case could be the signal for many men to return to court to have a review of their maintenance payments. To counter this it would be prudent for non-working spouses to consider their employment sooner rather than later as it seems that courts will be looking for non-earners to maximise their earning capacity.

It would appear that a court will take a dim view of any non earning spouse arriving at court having done nothing to seek employment and moving towards self sufficiency. At the very least they should register with a headhunter or employment agency. That way if a party is not able to obtain employment they will at least have some evidence with which to repel any suggestion that they are sitting on their backside and living off the fat of the land.

This judgement is not likely to affect the ultra wealthy where maintenance is not an issue as the capital provided is sufficient in itself, but could well affect the mass affluent.

Maintenance must cover immediate needs but must also encourage a spouse to become independent. A joint life order discourages independence and also discourages people getting on with their lives by marrying a new partner. Why would someone choose to marry a poorer person than their spouse when they will lose the benefit of their substantive maintenance order?

I am not for one moment suggesting that responsibility for looking after a former spouse and children be thrown onto the state and the starting point is that it must be correct for the income earning spouse to support their family. However the meal ticket for life may just have been cancelled.

Author: Jonathan West, Head of Family Law at Prolegal Solicitors. Jonathan has written many articles and commented in various publications such as The Times, The Independent, Baby and me, Huffington Post, 50 Connect and has even appeared on BBC Breakfast as a Family Law expert.

All Your Parents’ Rights in One Article

All Your Parents’ Rights in One Article

Parents have a myriad of rights to leave to care for their children. It can get very confusing, and won’t get any clearer when the rather complex Shared Parental Leave comes into force. This article sets out the different types of leave, who qualifies and what rights there are to pay during leave.

Maternity Leave

You can take up to 26 weeks of ordinary maternity leave (OML) and a further 26 weeks additional maternity leave (AML), regardless of how long you have worked for your employer. In order to qualify, you must tell your employer the date when you wish to start your leave before the end of the 15th week before you’re due to give birth. The first 2 weeks after birth are compulsory maternity leave, when you are not permitted to work.

Qualifying employees are entitled to a maximum of 39 weeks statutory maternity pay (SMP). For the first six weeks you are paid at 90% of your salary, the remaining 33 weeks are paid at the lower of either the standard rate of £136.78, or 90% of your average gross weekly earnings. The statutory rate will rise to £138.18 on 6 April 2014. Check your company maternity policy because some employers offer enhanced maternity pay.

Terms and conditions of your employment continue during your maternity leave, except in respect of pay. You should continue to receive your non-cash contractual benefits such as medical insurance or a company car if this is for personal as well as business use. You are also entitled to any pay rises given during your leave, though this will take effect on your return unless within the first 6 weeks when maternity pay is determined by a percentage of your salary.

Holidays accrue during maternity leave and can be taken before or after your leave but not during.

You have the right to return to the same job after OML. After AML, your employer can offer a suitable and appropriate alternative if it is not practical for you to return to the same job.

Read more articles on Rights to Maternity Leave.

Paternity Leave

Dads, or mum’s partner, are entitled to 2 weeks’ Ordinary Paternity Leave (OPL) paid at £136.78, rising to £138.18 on 6 April 2014. Many employers offer this at full pay. Although most men choose to take the leave as the baby is born, it can be taken at any time within 56 days of the birth. To qualify, dad must have had at least 26 weeks’ service 14 weeks before the due date.

If dad qualifies for OPL he is also entitled to APL, if mum goes back to work. APL cannot be taken until baby is 20 weeks old and no later than baby’s first birthday. Dad must be working for the same employer as he was when he took OPL. He is entitled to the unexpired portion of mum’s SMP, paid at the same rate.

Parental Leave

All parents are entitled to take up to 18 weeks unpaid parental leave before their child is 5. The leave accrues in respect of each child, so a parent of 3 children could take up to 54

weeks. Leave must be taken in blocks of a week and can be limited to 4 weeks per year. Employers can postpone the leave for up to 6 months where the business would be unduly disrupted.

To take the leave, employees must have been with their employer for at least a year. Leave can move between employers, so for example if you had taken 3 weeks leave and got a new job, you could take up to 15 weeks in that new job once you had been there for a year.

Dependants Leave

All employees are entitled to a reasonable amount of unpaid leave to deal with dependants who are ill or injured. The leave is also available because of unexpected disruption of childcare or to deal with an incident at school.

Shared Parental Leave

There has been much publicity around Shared Parental Leave, due to apply to parents of children born after April 2015. Parents will be able to share 50 weeks’ leave after the 2 week compulsory maternity leave. They can take leave in consecutive blocks or at the same time. They can even ask their employer for non-continuous leave, though employers will have the right to refuse this. Maternity and Paternity pay will remain at current levels.

To qualify, employees must have 26 weeks’ service 14 weeks before the baby’s due date. Both parents must meet the “economic activity test”, which is to say they must have worked for at least 26 of the 66 weeks before the baby is born, and have earned at least £30 per week for at least 13 of those weeks.

Flexible working

Parents and carers have the right to request flexible working, such as working part time hours, changing the hours they work or working from home. An employer can only refuse a request for a sound business reason. If the employer refuses to consider the request or refuses it based on incorrect facts, the employee can complain to the Employment Tribunal. Read more articles on: Flexible Working Request, Negotiating Flexible Work and Finding Flexible Work.


black new logoAuthor: Louise Taft (Prolegal). Prolegal provides prestigious expertise without the elevated costs expected in this area. We employ the people, the resources and the technology needed to deliver you the highest quality of service in employment law.

Pregnancy Discrimination

Pregnancy Discrimination

Campaigning organisation Maternity Action estimate that 60000 women lose their jobs because of pregnancy or maternity discrimination every year. This is despite the Equality Act 2010, which protects you from unfavourable treatment because of pregnancy, pregnancy related illness or maternity leave.

Pregnant woman at work with laptop looking stressedIn my experience, the most common problems arise from pregnancy related absences and around returning to work. I’ve advised women whose employers object to the number or timing of her ante natal appointments. There is a right to paid leave: you should not be asked to make up the time or to rearrange appointments outside office hours. Employers should not apply absence policies to women with pregnancy related illnesses except to the extent that this is to assist her (such as a referral to Occupational Health to consider whether any adjustments might enable her to return to work). Nevertheless, I have advised many women disciplined or even dismissed because they have taken time off with pregnancy related illness.

Having said that, outright pregnancy discrimination is still common: women tell me that their employers’ attitudes towards them have changed once they announce their pregnancy, with an assumption that she is no longer committed to her work, won’t return after her maternity leave or will only want to work part time. Employers raise performance concerns out of the blue or suddenly announce the role is redundant. One was even told that she would be replaced if she took her full entitlement to maternity leave. When one client complained about something her manager had said to her, he denied it, saying that her memory was bound to be affected by her pregnancy.

Returning to work is one of the most common times when women experience problems. Some women find their position has been filled and their services are no longer needed; their employer claims they are redundant. Your maternity leave must not play a part in any decision that your role is redundant. Any selection process should not take account of absences for maternity, ante natal appointments or pregnancy related illness. If you have been replaced during your maternity leave, your role is not redundant and it is unlawful to dismiss you. If your role is genuinely redundant, you have priority for any suitable alternative vacancies.

I would advise any woman experiencing discrimination to get something in writing as soon as possible: send an email setting out the problem, whether that be asserting your right to time off for an appointment or complaining about a comment about your pregnancy. If your employer has a HR department, get in touch with them as well as speaking to your line manager, or manager’s manager if they are the problem. If that doesn’t work, raise a formal grievance.

If things aren’t resolved internally, get legal advice as soon as possible. It’s important to remember there are short 3 month time limits to bring Employment Tribunal claims for discrimination. Whilst you may well have a lot on your plate preparing for a new baby, you might lose your right to claim if you wait.

black new logoAuthor: Louise Taft (Prolegal). Prolegal provides prestigious expertise without the elevated costs expected in this area. We employ the people, the resources and the technology needed to deliver you the highest quality of service in employment law.

       

Part-time Vs Full-time Working - Your Rights to Equal Treatment

Part-time Vs Full-time Working – Your Rights to Equal Treatment

How much holiday are you entitled to when you work part-time, and what about bankholidays? Find out what your main rights are as a part-time worker under the Part-Time Workers (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations 2000 (“the Regulations”).

Some Statistics

In order to put things into context it may be helpful to take a brief look at the part-time employment market. According to the Office of National Statistics (ONS), 8,049,000 people worked part-time and 21,787,000 worked full-time in May/ July 2013. Of the part-time workers, 5,949,000 were women and only 2,101,000 were men. Although this is a decrease from May/ July 2012 (where 5,996,000 women worked part-time) it shows substantially more women than men currently work part-time. Furthermore, the number of women working part-time is growing – up by 0.6% in April/ June 2013, whereas the number of part-time working men decreased by 1.3%.

Although this article focuses on part-time workers’ rights under the Regulations, these figures show that if an employer has a policy that treats part-time workers less favourably, they could easily face a claim for indirect sex discrimination due to the amount of women that make up the part-time workers market.

Starting Point

Employees with 26 weeks’ continuous employment have a legal right to request to work flexibly if they care for a child under 17, a disabled child under 18 or an adult that is their spouse, civil partner, partner, relative or living at their address. However, whilst there is a right of request, there is no right to make a switch and an employer is not obligated to grant the request (although a refusal may be indirect discrimination). Find how to request flexible work here.

Your Rights

A part-time worker should not to be treated unfavourably because they work part-time. They should receive the same rates of pay, have the same access to promotion and training and incentive schemes and receive an equivalent pro-rated holiday entitlement. This applies to all workers (not just employees), whatever their gender. Differences in treatment can be justified for objective reasons, such as qualifications or conduct.

A Comparison Is Needed

In assessing whether you may have been treated less favourably, you must compare yourself to a colleague (called a “comparator”). For a part-time employee, this is a full-time employee of the same employer under the same type of contract, engaged in the same or broadly similar work and (preferably) based at the same workplace. An employee, for example, could not be a comparator for a consultant, even though their work may be similar, as they have different types of contract.

The Pro Rata Principle

Under the Regulations, part-time workers should receive the same pay and benefits on a pro rata basis as full-time workers. Some practical examples are:-

Holidays

A part-time worker is entitled pro rata to the same amount of paid holidays as a full-time worker. This is calculated on the basis that workers have a statutory minimum entitlement of 5.6 weeks’ holiday per year. Since they work fewer days or hours per week, part-time workers are entitled to fewer paid holidays.

In terms of bank holidays, however, the situation is less straightforward. Some employers only allow workers paid holidays where the public holiday falls on a day they would usually work. If you work Wednesday to Friday you would not be entitled to paid holiday for public holidays falling on a Monday. Although at first glance this would appear to be less favourable treatment, this approach has been permitted on the basis that the reason was not the part-time status but the working days. Nonetheless, the law is not clear on this point and employers’ policies vary so you should feel relatively comfortable requesting a pro rated entitlement to bank and public holidays regardless of whether or not they fall on your usual working days.

Overtime

Certain businesses pay overtime rates once the part-time worker has worked the same amount of hours per week as the threshold for a full-time worker. Others pay overtime rates after a certain number of hours have been worked over contractual hours (e.g. 5 hours over the normal weekly hours). Both of these approaches should be challenged as they treat part-time workers less favourably and potentially discriminate indirectly against women (who are statistically more likely to work part-time). The fairer policy would be to pay overtime rates of pay whenever the worker exceeds their contractual hours, whether full time or part time.

Benefits

When it comes to benefits, a part-time worker is entitled to receive a pro rated benefit. However, an employer may be able to excuse enrolling you in a scheme if the cost of providing the health insurance, for example, was disproportionate to the benefit you would receive. This would only justify exceptional differences in treatment.

If You Are Treated Less Favourably

If you are being treated less favourably, the best initial approach is to check your facts and have an informal discussion with your line manager. You could also lodge a formal grievance or request a written statement of the reasons for this treatment, which you should receive within 21 days of your request. If you are unsatisfied with the response, you should consider if there is the possibility to negotiate and whether it is worthwhile seeking financial compensation in the Employment Tribunal. This can be done while you are still working or after the relationship has ended but the claim must be presented within 3 months of the last act or omission you are complaining about.

The Future

The government has announced its intention to extend the right to request flexible working to all employees with 26 weeks’ continuous employment, regardless of whether or not they have caring responsibilities. This is due to become law by 2014.

 Author:  Melanie Stancliffe from Thomas Eggar LLP (Solicitors. For further assistance, please contact Michael Goitein or Melanie Stancliffe at Thomas Eggar LLP (Solicitors) on 0207 972 9720 Michael.Goitein@thomaseggar.com, Melanie.Stancliffe@thomaseggar.com.

The right to request flexible working

The right to request flexible working

The law gives the ‘right to request’ flexible working to parents of children up to and including the age of 16, parents of disabled children up to 18, and carers of adult relatives. Employers must consider requests seriously and give objective business reasons if they have to turn them down.

The best place to learn more on the right to request flexible working is from ACAS – a government-funded organisation working to prevent and resolve employment disputes. Download the ACAS leaflet: The right to apply for flexible working – a short guide for employers, working parents and carers.

The ACAS leaflet covers:

  • who can apply
  • how to apply
  • grounds for refusal
  • what to do if refused

You can download a flowchart summary of the right-to-request procedure (PDF, 63K), from the Business Link website.

If you would just like a short overview, just start here: Short introduction to the rights of parents to request flexible work by Avinder Laroya of Serenity Law

In 2014 changes are taking place in the laws around flexible working. Read more on expected changes to the right to request flexible work, where it will be extended to include all employees. Likely to take effect in April 2014.

Your application for a flexible working arrangement

Your application should describe the desired working pattern and how you think your employer can accommodate it.
Make sure you include all information, so your flexible working application is valid.

You can download the form FW(A), from the Directgov website. (RTF, 884K).

More information

Should you have a more specific, individual question you can call the ACAS helpline, for free.

Parental Choice – Offer a ‘one stop shop’  to help you make the right decision on your childcare needs and guide you through your legal rights before and after pregnancy, they offer services to: write your flexible work proposal, find your childcare and write your nanny contract

NCT and Working Families offer ‘Returning to work – a guide for parents‘. It gives practical information, as well as legal information and covers:

  • How does family and work fit in my life
  • I’m pregnant – what happens next?
  • How does this fit with my career?
  • How to tell my employer
  • How should I tell the other people at work?
  • Avoiding the bumps
  • Keeping in touch and getting ready to return to work
  • Back at work
  • The homefront
  • If things go wrong (in requesting flexible work)

Business Link – government’s online resource for businesses – sets out the statutory rights to flexible work from an employers perspective. However, if you are looking for some more detail, and best practice examples, it is worthwhile checking their website. It includes:

  • The right to request flexible working – the eligibility criteria
  • Types of flexible working
  • How to do an application for a flexible working arrangement
  • How an employer should respond to an employee’s flexible working request, including a clear flow chart of the process
  • How the employer should reach a decision on a flexible working request – including grounds for refusal
  • How an employee can appeal a refusal
  • Extensions to time limits and withdrawals
  • How to deal with unresolved flexible working requests
  • Employment protection rights in relation to employment tribunal claims
Author: Inge Woudstra, Working Women’s Expert and Founding Director of Mum & Career
Flexible working and redundancy – two sides of the same coin

Flexible working and redundancy – two sides of the same coin

Mums working flexibly may feel more vulnerable to redundancy. However, in some cases, being prepared to work flexibly may save you your job. Find out how to avoid redundancy and why working flexibly could be to your advantage.

Requesting flexible working arrangements

The law gives the “right to request” flexible working to qualifying employees who are parents of children up to and including the age of 16, parents of disabled children up to 18, and carers of adult relatives. However, an employer can refuse on certain grounds, which are set out in various articles elsewhere on this website.

Will my employer agree to a flexible working arrangement, but blacklist me?

Those working flexibly may feel that the employer sees them as being less committed or “on the mummy track”. A new boss may inherit a flexible working arrangement and dislike it.

Many people opt for job-share arrangements. However, although such arrangements bring benefits for both employer and employee, they may be perceived to be more expensive for employers (and may actually be more expensive, for example, if two people work three days a week each, rather than one person working five). This may make such arrangements more vulnerable in economic times of woe.

However, although all these things can happen, redundancy criteria must be transparent and non-discriminatory. Any criteria that would be likely to affect flexible or part-time workers more than full-timers may be indirectly discriminatory on gender grounds and therefore potentially unlawful under the Equality Act 2010 as well as being an automatically unfair dismissal.

To put yourself in the best position possible, it’s stating the obvious to say “do a good job”. But you need to do more than that: you need to make sure other people know you are doing a good job. Make sure you keep evidence of your achievements and copy people into important e-mails (without being sucked into a “cc culture”).

Keep a diary of your work, your achievements and any important projects you have worked on. If anyone sends you an email saying that you have done a good job, make sure you file it somewhere safe. The more evidence you have, the more easily you can show that you are committed to your work and that the flexible working arrangement is working.

Could flexible working actually save my job?

While many women worry that they are vulnerable to redundancy, flexible working may actually save their jobs. Some employers have realised that flexible working can help them to retain good staff during the recession. It’s not all good news for employees, as it may mean reduced hours and pay.

You can refuse to change your working pattern, but then you may be at risk of redundancy. Thus, agreeing to work flexibly could help you to keep your job, and it may be preferable to earn 80% of your salary than 0% of salary. It also means that employers save on redundancy costs and the costs of recruiting and training new staff when the economic situation improves.

An example of this was in 2009, when it was reported  that City law firm Norton Rose was offering alternatives to redundancy. Staff were offered the option of working four-day weeks on 85% of pay or taking a sabbatical of up to 12 weeks on 30% of pay. By exploring these options with staff, the firm was able to retain more staff, along with their knowledge, skills and contacts.

As the economy improved, Norton Rose reinstated the five day week (although the author is not aware if anyone asked to keep their four day a week arrangements, and if so, whether it was permitted). It was held up in the legal press as a beacon of good practice when other law firms were making large numbers of people redundant, so such practices can lead to good publicity for employers.

KMPG carried out a similar process. Several of the UK-based car manufacturers have also used elements of flexible working (negotiated with the workforce) as a means of reducing the number of redundancies and thus retaining their skills base.

So, if you work for a company that is making redundancies and you feel flexible working is something they should consider you could suggest it to your employer. Reasonable measures must be taken to come up with alternatives to compulsorily making people redundant, so your employer must seriously consider such suggestions.

Author: Helen Hart was a practising lawyer for many years and spent the last four years working for a legal publishing company. She now works part-time in a public library as well as being a freelance writer and editor.

Flexible working after the Olympic Games

Flexible working during the Olympics: how can you make the most of it?

The government is actively encouraging employers to allow flexible working during the period of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, could you take advantage of this? What could you do to let your employer extend your flexible working arrangements beyond the Games.

Getting around London during the Games

There are regular reports in the media as to how London’s transport system is going to crash during the Olympic Games and how people will not be able to get to work. Many suggestions have been made to improve matters: staggering hours/shifts, home working, and less usefully for our purposes, spending some time in the pub after work and delaying your journey home.

 

Right to request flexible working, just during the Games?

The law gives the “right to request” flexible working to qualifying employees who are parents of children up to and including the age of 16, parents of disabled children up to 18, and carers of adult relatives. However, an employer can refuse on certain grounds:

  • planned structural changes;
  • the burden of additional costs;
  • a detrimental impact on quality;
  • the inability to recruit additional staff;
  • a detrimental impact on performance;
  • the inability to reorganise work among existing staff;
  • a detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand; and/or
  • lack of work during the periods the employee proposes to work.

Employers have explicitly expressed concern that allowing staff to work flexibly during the Olympic Games will increase employees’ expectation of such working patterns being granted on a permanent basis in the future. Those employers are being advised to make clear to their staff that changes being introduced during the exceptional circumstances of the Olympic Games and that existing flexible working policies in line with the statutory framework will continue to apply after the Games.

The arguments you need to convince your employer to extend your flexible working hours beyond the Olympics

It might be short-sighted of an employer to take the line that flexible working is just during the Olympic Games, and all is not lost for you. If revised arrangements work for a few weeks, they may well work long-term and it’s worth an employee pointing this out. For example, if the employer fears a detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand, but output is maintained during the Games, you may have a stronger case to support your application for permanent flexible working.

Some jobs just do not lend themselves to flexible working, such as teaching or being a receptionist (although shift patterns may be flexible in some roles) but others do. An employer may be able to save money on office space if it has more people working at home or if people work different shift patterns to avoid the rush-hour. An employee ought to be able to show that they can do their job just as well from home, or between the hours of 7-3 or 11-7 rather than between 9-5. Avoiding travel can save time and increase productivity.

According to Stylist magazine, a survey by Regus found that 60% of businesses believe that flexible work, whether office hours or location, is more cost-efficient. A desk for a single employee in London can cost £12,000 a year. So use these kinds of arguments in your flexible working application.

If you can work flexibly on a temporary basis during the Games, use the time to achieve as much as you can, so when you come to apply to extend the arrangement, you can point to achievements during that period to support your case. It is also worth asking to extend the temporary arrangement – for example, by saying that you’ve been working flexibly for 4-6 weeks – if the employer is not yet convinced that it works for the business, could you carry on for another 4-6 weeks to give the arrangement a more lengthy trial?

Employers will need to consider issues such as:

  • confidentiality (made more difficult to police by remote working);
  • your health and safety (an employer needs to rely on you to risk-assess your working environment); and
  • the robustness of their IT systems (do they have enough licences for remote working applications, can their servers support increased numbers of home workers).

So give some thought to these issues when making your application and how they can be addressed.

Author: Helen Hart was a practising lawyer for many years and spent the last four years working for a legal publishing company. She now works part-time in a public library as well as being a freelance writer and editor.