The extension of the right to request flexible working, which was due to come into force on 6 April 2014, has been postponed because of a delay in the progress of the Children and Families Bill through Parliament.
This legislation will give employees the statutory right to request a contract variation for flexible-working arrangements, and will require employers to consider the request in a reasonable manner.
However, the right to request does not create a right to flexible working.
As part of its strategy to create a modern workplace for the modern economy and after a period of consultation, the government proposed extending this right to all employees with at least 26 weeks’ continuous employment.
Currently, only those employees with children aged 16 or under, 17 or under if the child is disabled, and employees that are carers have the right to request flexible-working arrangements.
It is also expected that the current right-to-request statutory procedure will be abolished and replaced with a duty on employers to deal with requests reasonably.
In January, the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) published a final draft of its Code of practice for handling requests to work flexibly in a reasonable manner along with a supplementary good practice guide, providing practical examples to help employers manage employees’ new extended right.
It is hoped that the move away from the current statutory procedure will enable employers to take a more pragmatic approach and consider individual circumstances when faced with conflicting requests.
The code will have statutory force and will be taken into account by employment tribunals when considering relevant cases.
The revised implementation date for the extended flexible-working arrangements is currently unknown. It has been suggested the government will look to implement the extension at an appropriate date later this year, when the Children and Families Bill receives Royal Assent in March.
Nicola Kerr is head of employment at King and Wood Mallesons SJ Berwin