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Flexible working rights available for all from today

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How will today’s government announcement that all employees now have the right to request flexible working hours benefit people in reality?

Before June 2014, flexible working rights only applied to parents of children under 17 (18 in the case of parents of disabled children) or to those caring for an adult. Now any employee who has at least 26 weeks employment can apply to work flexibly for any reason.

The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) says that there is a growing demand for flexible working, both from employees wanting a better work life balance and from organisations which want to align their business needs with the way their employees work and customer requirements.

Ministers have said that they expect the changes to be of particular benefit to older workers wanting to work differently as they approach retirement and younger people looking to take part in professional development in their own time. ACAS Chief Executive, Anne Sharpe, says: “ Many employers recognise that offering a flexible approach to working patterns helps attract and retain talented people and supports business success.

“We have published our new draft Code and practical guidance now to help employers prepare for the changes ahead on handling flexible working requests in a reasonable manner.”

In the guide, employees are told to think about what effect, if any, their requested change would have on their employer and how, in their opinion, any such effect might be dealt with. Employees can only make one request in any 12-month period.

Organisations must consider every request and can accept it as it is; accept with modifications or reject requests if there is a business reason for doing so. It might be that there would be a detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand or an inability to reorganise work amongst existing colleagues for example.

Bromford has always offered an all-inclusive, flexible working environment and has a reputation for being a great place to work. One colleague who took a day off a week to volunteer said: “It gave me time to pursue my voluntary activities where I learnt loads and could bring something extra back to the business. I didn’t have a set day which worked well both ways.” Another colleague has been able to drop to a four-day week even though the role is full time. She has since negotiated further flexibility within the 28-hour week so she can start earlier and leave earlier in the day. She said: “I wouldn’t know what to do if I couldn’t juggle like this and am so grateful to Bromford. I’d be totally stuck.”