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Flexible working hours uptake by employees not as high as expected despite changes in the law.

Published 19 August 2015

Despite a change in the law many employees are still not taking advantage of the right to request flexible working hours.

Just over a year ago the law was changed meaning employers have to address in a reasonable manner any such request from any employee with 26 weeks or more service.

A study conducted after the introduction of the new legislation, found more than half of the employees who took part in it were unaware of their right to request flexible working hours – and it still appears to be the case.

There has not been a huge spike in employees requesting to vary their working hours, and recent research shows just 13 per cent of working parents take advantage.

It is felt that many working parents stick to normal working hours as they want to be seen as part of the team and fear disapproving looks and banter from colleagues if leaving early to pick up children.

Flexible working can include a variation of the working pattern, such as working from home, part-time working, job sharing and shift working.

The employee is required to submit a written request for flexible working hours, which employers should consider objectively before notifying the member of staff of a decision within three months, unless an extension is agreed.

A meeting should be held with a worker to discuss the matter and if the request cannot be accommodated an employer is required to provide clear business reasons for any rejection.

Employers are under no obligation to provide employees with the right to appeal, although it is considered good practice – and advised by Acas – to allow them to do so.

Flexible working can make it easier for employees to manage their work life balance, especially working parents.

The benefits of flexible working are said to include that it can engage and empower employees and make them feel happier, which will be highlighted during Working Families National Work Life Week (21 – 25 September).

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