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Flexible Working – Know your rights

18 Feb 2021 | Law Express

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All employees have the legal right to request flexible working, and employers must give this full and proper consideration. This blog explains what an employee’ rights are and how to request flexible hours, plus how employers must handle a request for flexible working, and the grounds on which they can refuse it.

Flexible Working – Know your rights Image

The BVA position on good veterinary workplaces states that “Good workplaces support requests for flexible working wherever possible, from all team members, regardless of the reason for their request.”

Flexible working is a way a way of working that suits an employee’s needs, for example having flexible start and finish times, or working from home[1]. All employees have the legal right to request flexible working – not just parents and carers. It may be requested for a variety of reasons, including personal, social, or to care for family members.

We asked Law Express, the team behind the BVA legal helpline, to provide advice on the legal requirement around flexible working, to help employers and employees know their rights. Here’s the advice they gave us: 

Who can request flexible working? All employees with 26 weeks’ continuous service have the right to request flexible working, provided they have not made a request in the previous 12 months.

What does flexible working mean?

Flexible working means working different hours than the usual hours you are expected to work. For example, rather than doing five days a week 9am until 5pm you could ask to work five days a week 7am until 3pm, or you could ask to take a 20 minute lunch break rather than one hour to enable you to leave work earlier.

How do I make a formal request?

You can make one written request every 12 months, which your employer must deal with within three months.

It is the duty of your employer to give a flexible working request full and proper consideration and to do so through a reasonable process. A reasonable process will normally consist of a request from you in writing, a meeting with them, consideration of the request, informing you of the decision and allowing you to appeal the decision. The employer may change their decision as a result of an appeal.

On what grounds can an employer refuse?

The employer can refuse the request on any of the eight business grounds set out in the legislation:

  • the burden of additional costs
  • an inability to reorganise work amongst existing staff
  • an inability to recruit additional staff
  • a detrimental impact on quality
  • a detrimental impact on performance
  • detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand
  • insufficient work for the periods the employee proposes to work
  • a planned structural change to the business

More information

The Gov.uk website provides further advice, and ACAS have produced a code of practice and guidance on how to deal with flexible working requests.

BVA members can access the BVA legal helpline 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to speak to a team of specialist legal advisors about any professional or personal subject.

[1] https://www.gov.uk/flexible-working

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