Mark Edwards, general manager at www.rocketlawyer.co.uk, asks if businesses are ready for changes to flexible working legislation.
Flexi-time. Work-life balance. Remote working. These are just some of the terms businesses up and down the country will be hearing a lot more of this year as a result of the Children and Families Act coming into effect. The crucial point with the rule change is that it will apply to all your employees, regardless of whether they have children or are a carer, so it’s important that you create or update your flexible working, maternity and paternity policies as well as employee contracts to reflect those changes.
The two major elements involve the introduction of shared parental leave for working parents as well as the legal right for every employee to request flexible working from their employer.
Shared parental leave
The Act will create an employment right for new parents to share up to a year’s leave between themselves providing they have 26 weeks of continuous employment at the date of the application. Women will continue to be eligible for maternity leave and statutory maternity pay but if they choose to bring their allowance to an early end, the other parent will be able to take up the remaining allowance as part of shared parental leave.
It is your responsibility as a business to ensure your employees are aware of the parental leave policies you have in place and how they will be implemented. A simple maternity and paternity policy should cover eligibility, notification requirements and statutory parental pay, as well as when leave can be taken and when they have to return to work.
The right to request flexible working
The Act will extend the “right” to request flexible working to all employees providing they have been in continuous employment for 26 weeks. Flexible working can take the form of a change in working hours or the times and place of work. Businesses will still have a duty to consider the request, and they will still be allowed to refuse on business grounds.
With technology now making it easier than ever for people to work remotely (think cloud computing and video-conferencing, all of which can be accessed via laptops, smartphones and tablets), flexible working can work extremely well for many businesses with minimal, if any, disruption.
The key to making it work all round is to have a clear flexible working policy in place which covers the types of flexible working available, how requests will be considered, the potential reasons for refusing a request and informal flexible working requests that fall outside the system. Just ensure that as an employer, you process all requests in a reasonable manner and provide a timely decision.
Once your flexible working policy has been implemented, ensure that you then update each employee’s employment contract, if necessary, to formalise any changes to their individual terms of employment.
Mark Edwards is general manager at www.rocketlawyer.co.uk, an online legal service providing businesses and families with legal documents and affordable help from specialist lawyers.