When working full time, it can be difficult to achieve the desired work-life balance which motivates an employee to want to work, instead of feeling as though they have to work. Many employees who also double as a parent or carer can feel as though they are surviving under a cloud of guilt, being pulled into their place of work when their best judgement is telling them they should be at home more often.
It is within such circumstances that some employees consider making a request for flexible working. Flexible working may involve a job share, reducing working hours to part time or being able to work from home on occasions. In addition, further flexible working options include working flexitime, such as between 9am and 3pm to coincide with the school run, or compressed hours, which involves the same number of full time hours being worked over fewer days per week.
An employee must make an application to their employer to be considered for flexible working, which must be seriously considered in accordance with the Employment Rights Act 2002.
Within the Employment Rights Act 2002, it has long been established that a parent or carer of a child under 16, or of a disabled child under 18, is entitled to ask their employer to consider their application for flexible working. An employer can only refuse the employee’s application if the flexible working would be operationally impossible and damages business performance, or if the costs which resulted for the business were too high.
However, from 6th April 2014, all employees who have been working for their employer for at least 26 weeks are entitled to request flexible working. This is a dramatic turn of events within Employment Law as legislation begins to acknowledge that a work-life balance is important for all individuals, not just parents and carers. The Law seems to acknowledge that a happy employee is a motivated individual; this benefits their employer and in turn increases the productivity and success of the organisation.
Why may an employee wish to request flexible working, if they are not a parent or carer? A prime reason may be for those individuals who are in employment but who are also studying a distance learning course. The flexible working option allows the individual to continue in employment whilst being allowed time to enhance their skills and build upon their CV. Of course, this is beneficial to both the employee and the employer as the employee is increasing the skills set which they can offer their employer.
The expansion in flexible working entitlements will no doubt open the floodgates to new requests. However, in the pursuit of a happy, well-motivated workforce, this can only be seen as an improvement for all.