The extension of employees’ right to request flexible working arrangements will come into force on 30 June 2014.
This had been due to take effect on 6 April, but was postponed because of a delay in the Children and Families Bill’s progress through Parliament.
At the moment, employers must ’”consider seriously” requests to work flexibly from employees who have a child aged 16 or under, those with a child aged under 18 with disabilities, and staff who are caring for an adult dependant.
From 30 June, this right will be extended to all employees with at least 26 weeks’ service, regardless of their caring responsibilities.
Under the new rules, employers must deal with applications in a ”reasonable manner” and notify the employee of their decision on the application within 14 days.
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 requests from staff.
Employers do have the right to reject employees’ requests to work flexibly if there is a clear business case to do so, but employees may appeal against such decisions.
Steve Williams, head of equality at Acas, said: “Employers need to make sure their managers are able to make the right decisions in handling requests from employees to work flexibly. Remember, the law has changed to give employees the right to ask, not the right to have flexible working [arrangements].
“There are benefits for both employees and employers in flexible working. For employees, it can mean a better balance of their home and work lives. For the employer, using flexible-working arrangements can ensure they have the right staff available at the right time to do the job.
“That is important because if the request adversely affects the organisation, then the employer should say no. And if they do, it is good management practice to explain to the employee why they are saying no.”