Some forms of discrimination are easier to identify and avoid than others but the full effects of modern discrimination legislation are often indirect, unseen and misunderstood - especially when it comes to employees with family commitments. Making the wrong decision can be very costly to your business, even when you stay on the right side of the law. Discriminating against employees with childcare responsibilities or failing to properly consider someone's request to change their working pattern can have costly consequences.
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Nearly all employees with 26 weeks' continuous service can request flexible working. Most requests are to accommodate those with family or caring commitments but there need not be a reason. Flexible working can be any kind of arrangement which departs from the standard work pattern and includes flexi-time, home-working, reduced hours and job sharing.
When you receive a request for flexible working it is important that you do not automatically dismiss the application. Employers are only permitted to refuse a request in a limited number of circumstances. You should always give careful thought to whether you can balance your needs as a business with those of your employee. Tribunals will award compensation of up to 15 weeks' pay to an employee whose flexible working request has not been considered properly or fairly. In the worst cases, failure to comply with the law can lead to a loss of trust and confidence with your employee bringing a claim for discrimination or even resigning and claiming constructive unfair dismissal. The average Tribunal award for sex discrimination is £23,500.
If one of your employees wants to change their working pattern, it is important you deal with the enquiry properly and promptly. We can help you by ensuring you have the right policies in place and follow the procedures with the minimum inconvenience and delay to your business. We will advise you on how to deal with the request in a balanced way, providing you with all the guidance and documents you need to consider the request and implement or refuse the change.
If you do need to reject someone's request, you will have the confidence that you have followed best practice and made a fair decision within the law.
When funding legal advice from our employment law and HR experts, we can offer to do the work for a guaranteed fixed fee or as part of our annual retainer service.
With qualified CIPD HR professionals in our team, we can help you look beyond just "the law" and help you decide what is best for your business now and for the future.
Our experienced team will always give you straightforward and practical advice and help you avoid and deal with working pattern issues.