5 things employers need to consider before rejecting a request for flexible working hours
It’s important to note that every employee that has worked for you for more than 26 consecutive weeks has the right to request for flexible working hours, this isn’t just a law that relates to parents. Employees can ask for part time work, varied hours, or even to work from home. Before you refuse these applications, you must consider these five things:
- The Law
You must remember that every single request must be dealt with in a reasonable manner – as laid out in the ACAS code of practice document. If you do not adhere to these standards, you may be taken to an employment tribunal… and rejecting a request for flexible working hours without fully considering it isn’t acceptable.
- The Possibilities
You can actually make these flexible working hours work for you too. You may need to schedule them around your employee, but that doesn’t need to have a negative impact on your business. For example you can split the job with someone else, you can ask them to work compressed hours – the same amount of full time hours over less days, or you can stagger the hours that they work. There isn’t any reason for productivity to drop.
- Family Friendly Policies
Offering your employees the chance to live their own life outside of work will make them much more likely to not only work harder for you, but to stick with your company for much longer too. Offering solid maternity leave, parental leave, and flexibility are some of the top things that encourage people to stay at their jobs… this will save you a lot of money and effort on retraining new staff in the long run.
- The Procedure
It’s very important to let your employees know about the standard procedure for this sort of request, so that everyone knows exactly where they stand. There can be forms or letters sent to you with the request, in which a decision needs to be made within 3 months. If the change is agreed, a new contract must be written, but if it’s refused, it is up to the employee what they do next. Be aware that they may wish to go to an employment tribunal.
- The Right To Refuse
You do have the right to turn down an application, but you need to have a solid reason for doing so. According to Gov.uk, the following reasons are acceptable:
- The change will bring on extra costs that will damage the business.
- The work can’t be reorganised among other staff.
- People can’t be recruited to do the work.
- Flexible working will affect quality and performance – you will need to be able to prove this.
- The business won’t be able to meet customer demand as it has been doing.
- There’s a lack of work to do during the proposed working times.
- The business is planning changes to the workforce… if this is the case, you may need to reconsider afterwards.
Should you let your employees use Facebook at work?
By now, you probably already have a social media policy in place, right? There is probably a section in your employee handbook, telling your employees not to use the Internet for personal use during working hours, and that sort of thing. But is that enough anymore, or do you need to do more? Should you say anything about employees ability to access Facebook at Work?
Everyone is aware of the massive impact that Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn have had on communications. It can be a positive thing for market research and allowing people to see what new products and services you have on offer… but have you thought about what your employees are posting at all times, and the impact that this could have on your business? Things are a lot less private online than people assume they are so if someone posts something racist or derogatory in anyway – and it’s made public that they work for you – this could harm your business reputation.
So how do you go about telling people what to post on their own, personal accounts? That might seem like a gigantic task, one that will cause a lot of disrepute, but if you word it right, and get things checked over by a lawyer to check that it doesn’t violate the Human Rights Act 1998, then you will be fine.
Make sure that there can’t be any misinterpretation when it comes to any of your employee policies, particularly this one. If you don’t want people to post anything about your business online, then say so, or if you only want positive remarks to be made then make that clear too.
It’s also imperative to set out the disciplinary procedure for breaking any of these rules, to ensure that everyone knows where they stand.
While you may not want your employees to access Facebook at work you should recognise that many of them will want to do so in their personal life and this is where the line is sometimes blurred It isn’t unfair to state clearly in an employment contract that under no circumstances is confidential information to be released, but it is unfair to suggest that they can’t post anything online at all. Common sense is key.
It might be helpful to focus on what people can post, rather than what they can’t. For example, you may grant your staff access to Facebook at work but in state in the guidelines that Facebook posts can be made during working hours, if they are about the business. It might also be helpful to nudge them in the right direction of the privacy settings, reminding them to update this regularly.
The most important thing to get across to people is remembering that they are responsible for what they post at all times. Exercising good judgement at all times is important, especially when you consider that it is within an employer’s rights to monitor employee’s social media accounts, even when they aren’t at work – it might be a good idea to lay that out in the handbook. The Internet is a worldwide community, which includes everyone… by keeping your social media policy up to date, you can ensure that this community is only seeing your company and employees in the best light possible, so everybody wins!
How To Use The Fit For Work Service To Reduce Sickness Absence
Sickness and absence from work can be a tricky subject to tackle. especially if you are unsure of the underlying reason for absence. In some cases, the reason for absence may require medical advice. For small businesses at one time such advice may have been beyond their reach. In January 2015, the government introduced a new Fit for Work service which is open to all businesses who need to get a second medical opinion about the absence of their employees.
The Fit for Work service has been designed to help employers to manage the impact that sickness absence and sick pay has on their business. It will help you to assess the gravity of someone’s condition, and when you can expect them to return to work. You can access all of the information about it from the Fit For Work Service website – there you can get free, impartial advice, and information on the referral systems, such as Occupational Health.
When you consider that in England and Wales alone, each year around 865,000 employee absences last over 4 weeks, it’s easy to see how this can become an issue. There are many advantages for keeping on top of it in a way that complies with the law, including employee satisfaction and productivity being kept at a high level. It’s currently the most effective way to keep the employer and the employee happy.
When it comes to the Fit for Work service, the sickness absence definition refers to someone who has been away from work for more than 4 weeks. Anything before that is called ‘short term sickness’ and is expected to be dealt with as normal. These longer term people are the employees that you can request a sickness absence letter from their GP from, and that can be referred for an assessment with a specialist to conduct a Return to Work Plan – hopefully getting them back into the workplace much quicker than expected.
This is a process that you will be involved with the entire time. With the employee’s consent, the specialist will help you to gain a better understanding of their condition and limitations because of that, any Return to Work recommendations that you can put into place, and target completion dates for all of this. Sometimes just knowing when things are expected to return to normal can take the pressure off of everyone else.
Another advantage came in 1st January 2015. The Government has introduced a tax exemption – limited at £500 per employee – where employers fund the medical costs of treatments recommended by the health care professional, with the aim of getting past those NHS waiting lists, and getting people back to work as soon as possible.
So if you haven’t already gotten involved in the Fit to Work scheme, it’s best to do so now to protect yourself, your business, and your employees in the best way possible.