Live chat: flexible working hours and your organisation

Hannah Kowszun was NCVO’s Marketing & Membership Manager until July 2014. Her blog posts have been archived here.

Below is our live discussion hosted from 13.00-14.00 on Wednesday 2 July exploring what the changes in flexible working hours could mean for your organisation.

We brought together an expert panel to talk you through the changes and answer any questions or concerns you raised. Questions and responses are in the comments section beneath this post.

Expert panel

Shirley Briggs, PEACe HR Services Manager

Shirley manages the PEACe service and has been working for PEACe at LVSC since 2006, supporting many hundreds of voluntary and community organisations in that time. Before joining PEACe Shirley worked for many years as an HR manager in the social housing sector and latterly worked independently before joining PEACe. She is a qualified counsellor with a small private practice and has also trained as a workplace mediator.

Maria Aguilar, HR Services Partnership Director

Maria co-founded the HR Services Partnership in January 2003 after a career in which she headed the HR functions for the Magistrates Courts and the Probation Service in Surrey. The HR Services Partnership provides support to smaller organisations within the voluntary and community sector. Maria works with chief executives and senior teams providing the full range of HR advice. Her qualifications include an MA in Law and Employment Relations, and Chartered Membership of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.

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45 Responses to Live chat: flexible working hours and your organisation

  1. Victoria Bryan says:

    I’m interested in joining the live chat session on 2 July. How do i participate?


    • Hannah Kowszun says:

      Victoria, great to hear you’re interested! Simply visit this page, post your question here in the comment section and refresh the page to see the response. See you later.

  2. Vanessa Lee says:

    Sounds interesting – looking forward to the discussion.

  3. Hannah Kowszun says:

    Hello and welcome. Our guest experts Shirley and Maria will now introduce themselves. Please post your questions here and don’t forget to hit refresh!

    Looking forward to the chat.

  4. Maria Aguilar says:

    Hi everyone – really pleased to be taking part in this live Web Chat – Ready and waiting for your questions! Maria

  5. Shirley Briggs says:

    Hello, I’m here

  6. Michael Quantick says:

    We already have a flexible working policy which contains guidelines of what we will consider by way of flexible working. Am I right to assume that an employer has to consider any arrangement which comes outside an employers current guidelines and has to have good reason for not agreeing to the request.

  7. Hannah Kowszun says:

    Shirley and Maria

    I’ve heard these changes now means ANYONE can apply to work flexibly. Is this right?

  8. Shirley Briggs says:

    According to the law any employee who has been employed for 26 weeks or more will be eligible to apply. Of course you can consider anyone with less service but 26 weeks is is the statutory requirement.

  9. Vanessa Lee says:

    Hello Shirley and Maria. Thank you for giving your expertise to this session.

    Am I correct in my reading of the new guidance that any employee with 26 weeks service may request flexible working arrangements for any reason, i.e. that the request no longer needs to relate to caring responsibilities.

  10. Shirley Briggs says:

    Yes that is right.Applicants are not required to give a reason now. However it is wise to be cautious when you do know the reason to avoid any possible discrimination claim, for example in a multiple application scenario when one person might want to reduce hours because of just having a baby and another might want to spend more time in the garden!

    • Vanessa Lee says:

      Thank you Shirley. Yes I’m trying to second guess possible future scenarios.

      Can I clarify though that, so long as the employer fully considers the request for flexible working against the guidance it is in order to refuse if operationally the business cannot support such a request. This would not be refusal because of a disability or by association.

      Obviously we will always explore reasonable adjustments, flexible working or changes to meet the needs of employees. However, I can see that if every employee were to ask for a reduction in hours or other flexible working, the business could not support this and still deliver its service.

      • Shirley Briggs says:

        Yes. The obligation is to consider the request. There are 8 grounds to turn down a request, as before, listed in the ACAS Code of conduct, including costs, detriments to performance, quality, meeting customer demand, inability to organise work and burden of additional costs. It must be one of these 8 reasons.

  11. Hannah Kowszun says:

    Question over email from Tom:

    Does flexible working involve reducing your hours? Or is it about redistributing them within the hours expected of your contract?

    • Maria Aguilar says:

      Hi Tom – No, flexible working isn’t just about reducing the number of hours worked. It might be to work ‘compressed hours’, which means working the same number of hours but over say a 9 day fortnight. It might also be a request to make an early start and an early finish or late start etc…

  12. Claire says:

    Hi. Is it the same process to apply for flexible working? I think there were time limits before are they still the same?

    • Shirley Briggs says:

      Hi Claire. The requirement is now simply to handle requests in a reasonable manner. the process should be completed within 3 months, including any appeal process. Of course if you believe that the request is a good idea for all concerned there is no need to have a formal meeting but this is often useful.

  13. Lillie Price says:

    Sorry, what are the changes exactly?

    • Maria Aguilar says:

      Hi Lillie – On Monday new Regulations came in which state that any employee with at least 26 weeks service has the right to request flexible working. Until Monday only those people with certain caring responsibilities had that right.

      • Hannah Kowszun says:

        Maria, can I clarify – does this apply to both part-time employees and full-time?

        And what is the definition of ‘flexible working’?

        • Maria Aguilar says:

          Hi Hannah – yes it does apply to both full and part time employees. Flexible working can be about the number of hours worked, the pattern of hours worked or about working from home. Or indeed a combination of the above!

  14. Marie says:

    As a union rep myself I wonder whether it is possible for myself or other reps to accompany staff requesting for flexible working.

    • Maria Aguilar says:

      Interestingly the Code of Practice states that employers ‘should’ allow employees to be accompanied by a ‘work colleague.’ So the Code doesn’t say ‘must’ and they refer to work colleagues not union reps. Having said that a work colleague may also be a union rep and an employer who recognises a union may feel that it is better to allow staff to be accompanied by a rep…but it’s not a requirement.

  15. Hannah Kowszun says:

    Another question by email from Rhiannon:

    Do all organisations have the same core hours? Does an organisation need to have core hours agreed first before they can offer flexible working?

    • Shirley Briggs says:

      Not necessarily. The employee is essentially requesting a change to their contracted terms and conditions of employment

    • Michael Quantick says:

      All organisations don’t have the same core hours, we do but my assumption is that even where there are core hours in place an employee can make a request which beyond any existing core hours and that must be considered and should only be refused if it is for one of the reasons in the Code of Practice

      • Maria Aguilar says:

        Yes you are right Michael. It’s about considering each request and if you reject it do so for one (or more) of the eight prescribed reasons.

  16. Vanessa Lee says:

    Presumably decisions are time and situation relevant too? e.g. if an employee requests flexible working this year but the employer cannot meet request based on one of the eight reasons,that would not preclude the employer granting a different request from another employee if the proposal could work operationally?

    • Shirley Briggs says:

      No it wouldn’t but it would be wise to be aware of this when agreeing a different request close to the time. A refusal can only be based on the 8 reasons listed in the ACAS Code of Conduct. The risk in agreeing one application close to turning down a very similar one would be the possibility of a discrimination claim as well as a claim for not following a proper process. This would obviously depend on the employees concerned and the situation/circumstances which applied at the time. If it could be shown that the circumstances had changed, were different, this would be acceptable.

  17. Hannah Kowszun says:

    This is really interesting! So this means that I could request to come in at 10am every Tuesday so I can have a leisurely swim before work.

    And unless this demand has an impact on NCVO meeting customer demand, not being able to organise cover during this time or one of the other 8 reasons, there isn’t really any reason they can say no?

  18. Maria Aguilar says:

    Hmmmm – well yes you are right. However if you are asking for a reduction in hours remember this also means that salary, holiday, pension contributions etc… will be pro rata

    • Hannah Kowszun says:

      Ah, but if I promised to work an hour later every Tuesday that would be ok?

      • Maria Aguilar says:

        Ok so you would not be asking for a reduction in hours but rather to change your pattern of work. Again the employer would need to consider your request.

  19. Michael Quantick says:

    Many thanks this has been very interesting

  20. Vanessa Lee says:

    Thanks everyone. Its been useful to have this opportunity to put questions out there.

    NCVO people – will look out for (and forward to) future live chat sessions!

    • Hannah Kowszun says:

      Thank you Vanessa. Really great having you take part! Look out for a blog in a few weeks by Joe H in our research team on this as well (it’s members-only for the first month and then published to all)

  21. Hannah Kowszun says:

    Thank you so much to everyone who took part – readers and posters alike!

    If you do have any further questions or comments, feel free to post them here and we will respond. But it may take a little longer this time.

    And a huge thank you to Shirley and Maria! Excellent advice and support. Hope we can host you again soon.

    Have a lovely afternoon everyone.