Flexible Working

Flexible working comes in all shapes and sizes, and can be requested for a multitude of reasons. A nursery practitioner returning to work after maternity leave could wish to come back on a part time basis; or an office administrator might request to work from home two days of their five day working week. The one thing that each request has in common is that they must all be handled fairly.

All employees have the right to request flexible working arrangements. It is paramount that nurseries and pre-schools handle requests in the correct manner.

  • Company policy should clearly outline how employees should submit requests.
  • Upon receipt of a request, arrange a meeting to discuss the request, and the employee given the opportunity to bring someone along, such as a trade union representative.
  • Within three months of the request being received, consider and make a decision on the request .
  • Notify the employee , within this three month time frame, and give them the chance to appeal the decision.
  • You can choose to decline a flexible working request; however there must be a legitimate business reason for doing so. A list of appropriate reasons is on the ACAS website.

What happens when flexible working requests are not handled correctly?

In 2017, supermarket giant Tesco failed to correctly handle a flexible working request. A delivery driver put in a request, to change shifts to meet childcare needs.

Firstly the store’s People Manager refused to take the request. When an Assistant Manager finally took the written request, it was lost and the employee told it was his responsibility to issue a replacement. When the decision was finally made – way over the three month timeframe – the employee was told the request had been refused and was not given the chance of an appeal.

The employee won an employment tribunal case, due to the manner in which the request was handled, and was awarded an additional 8 weeks’ pay. This case highlights how it is imperative to deal with flexible working requests appropriately. Even if your decision can be supported, failing to conduct the process within the guidelines and timeframe of the law could have serious consequences.

Finally, when handling requests, it is often in the company’s best interest to try as best they can to adapt flexible working solutions for employees. In January this year, it was revealed by the charity Carers UK that over 600 employees leave their job each day to care for older and disabled relatives. Appropriate flexible working arrangements could help to reduce this figure, reducing loss of valued talent and saving on recruitment costs.

How can Early Years HR help?

  • Prepare a flexible working policy
  • Training on how to handle requests
  • Letters (template or bespoke)
  • Sit on panels to hear flexible working request or appeals

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