EMPLOYEES are being alerted to a change in the law which may give them extra rights in the workplace.
Joe Michna, manager of Hartlepool Citizens’ Advice Bureau, based in Park Road, has issued the advice on new flexible working rules.
The right to request flexible working was introduced in 2003 to allow employees with parental responsibility to apply for flexible work patterns to help them balance their work and family life.
It initially applied to parents of children under the age of six and parents of disabled children under the age of 18. Then in 2007 the employees who were also carers for adult dependants also gained the right and in 2009 the age limit for children was raised to 16 to cover the majority of parents with school-age children.
Employees must have been employed for a minimum 26 week period by their employer before they can make a request for flexible working.
But from June 30, the right to request flexible working is being extended to all employees regardless of their personal and family circumstances. The need to have either parental or caring responsibilities will be removed.
The condition that an employee can only make a request for flexible working after being employed for a 26 week period by there employer will remain.
Another changes is that there will be no statutory right for an employer to offer an employee an appeal against a refusal of flexible working – however, the ACAS Code of Practice covering flexible working requests encourages employers to still offer employees an appeal.
The right of an employer to refuse a flexible working request for a valid business reason remains the same but officials say an employee refused flexible working could still make a claim to an Employment Tribunal.
Mr Michna, Bureau manager and employment law specialist, said: “The new rules mean that any employee can now make a request to his or her employer for flexible working arrangements.
“However, the final decision on such requests is still with the employer and employees have no statutory right to have flexible working arrangements.
“Nevertheless, the new rules do allow for any employee to make a request for flexible working and employers must be careful to ensure that if a request is refused, that the decision is based on a valid business reason.
“If a refusal of a flexible working request is not based on a valid business reason, then the employee may make an application to an Employment Tribunal.” Hartlepool CAB has drop-in sessions on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays between 9.30am and 3pm.