News shook the working world when it was announced that all employees in England will have the right to ask to work flexitime after 26 weeks of service to their employer. Previously, only parents and carers were given the right to ask.
It has been claimed that the new rights will make workers ‘happier’ and improve their productivity. Liberal Democrat business minister Jo Swinson said that the belief that workers need to be in the office in order to work was a ‘1950s mindset’. However, employment lawyers predicted a rise in the number of workplace disputes and rising resentment between colleagues who get flexible hours and those who are refused. The new right to flexitime is anticipated to lead to a shift in employment practice, specifically in companies where flexitime is not yet allowed. Requesting flexitime allows workers to ask for part-time hours, working from home, compressed hours or job sharing. In the past, the right to this request has been predominantly led by parents, which has in turn meant frustrated childless employees who do not get the same treatment.
Miss Swinson said that workers can benefit from compressed hours, commuting outside of the rush hour or working from home, as can employers. She said that employers often find that workers who are given flexitime are more motivated and productive and thus, less likely to leave. She pointed out the technological advances which mean that employees no longer need to based in the office in order to get their work done.
However, employment lawyers believe that the new rights will lead to new complaints from those who miss out. Already, lawyers are dealing with cases where workers feel that they have to take on the work of their colleagues who have flexitime due to having children. With everyone now available to request it, the number of the complaints will rise.
A survey also found that 84% of employers expect the new right to be the cause of resentment among employees, with more than half believing that the changes will adversely affect the day-to-day running of businesses.
Experts have also warned that some workers may see the new rules as a right to have, rather than a right to ask. Under the current rules, three out of five requests are granted and a further one in four following negotiation with employers.
An employer can refuse a flexitime request for one or more of these reasons:
- The burden of additional costs.
- Inability to re-organise work among staff.
- Inability to recruit additional staff.
- Impact on quality.
- Impact on performance.
- Impact on the ability to meet customer demand.
- Insufficient work for the periods that the employee plans to work.
- Planned structural changes to the business.
If you are an employer and you need advice on the new rights to flexitime, call the Employer Helpline.