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Are HR staff ready for flexible working?

Are HR staff ready for flexible working?

Flexible Working Regulations are set to be changed on June 30th 2014 and many HR departments may not be ready for the changes.

After 26 weeks' service, all employees will have the right to request flexible working, the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development reports. 

At present, this right only applies to parents with children under 17 years, or 18 in the case of a disabled child, and certain carers.

Legal experts have said that some of the terms of the new legislation have not yet been fully communicated. It is important that organisations and HR departments are fully up to speed with the details of the reforms.

For example, staff will be restricted to making only one application a year, and employers will still have the right to refuse requests on business grounds.

In addition, a successful application for flexible working will result in a permanent change to an employee's terms and conditions, with no right to revert to their original terms in the future.

Esther Smith, an employment partner at TLT Solicitors, said employers should ensure their internal policies and procedures comply with the new provisions and additional training may be required.

"Whilst employers may be reluctant to advertise the extension of the right to request to the wider workforce, it may also be an opportunity to ensure that the staff know the limitations of the right, and therefore manage their expectations should they submit requests," she added. 

Vinita Arora, employment partner at DLA Piper, said employers will be given more flexibility as a result of the removal of statutory procedures – although there may be some confusion over the process.

In addition, some organisations could face discrimination claims if some requests are not seen as having been treated as fairly as others.

ACAS has issued a guide, called 'Handling requests to work in a reasonable manner', which Ms Smith recommends employers familiarise themselves with in advance of the act's implementation.