Labour Research (July 2011)

Law Queries

Working patterns

Q. A member wants to switch to working part-time or possibly working from home for part of the week. They are keen to do this for their quality of life and not in order to care for a relative. Can they force the employer to consider their request?

A. Where a person wants to change their working patterns in order to care for a spouse, partner or adult living at their address, there is a formal legally-backed mechanism that the employer must follow, with set time limits for holding meetings and appeals and so on.

Unfortunately, an employer is not currently compelled to follow that same statutory procedure where the request does not relate to an individual’s caring responsibilities.

However, the government proposes changing the law. In its consultation on modern workplaces, which runs until 8 August, the government envisages that anyone should be able to request to work flexibly and have their request properly considered.

There is nothing stopping your member from already requesting this of the employer. Although the employer is not under an obligation to agree to it, it will be under an obligation to behave reasonably in relation to it.

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