How to achieve a balance in and out of work

How to achieve a balance in and out of work

Autumn is a great time to enjoy to achieve a work life balance during World Mental Health Day 2019

This week is National Work Life Week and World Mental Health Day 2019. It is an opportunity for both employers and employees to focus on wellbeing at work and encouraging a 'work life' balance. Employers can use the week to provide activities for staff and to showcase their flexible working policies and practises.

What does employment law say about flexible working?

Employment law provides for the right to request flexible working and the legislation was initially aimed at working parents. Research shows that 86% of working parents say that they would like to work flexibly, but just under half actually do.

The government is currently consulting on how to increase the number of jobs advertised part time and flexibly, as well as how to encourage employers to be more transparent about their flexible working and parental leave and pay policies.

How to apply for flexible working

The legal right to request flexible working now applies to all employees who have at least 26 weeks continuous employment. A request can be made for any reason not just for childcare and related responsibilities.

Once a request is made, this triggers a formal process which the employer must follow. Employees who qualify may request a change to their employment terms relating to the hours they work, the times of work and also the place of work (as between their home and any of the employers workplaces).

Applying these three simple categories of request, there are a wide range of possible work patterns. These could include part time working, full time working (if currently part time), flexi-time, home-working, job sharing, staggered hours and term time working. There are in fact  very few limits as to what the employee could request by way of a change.

When flexible working may be refused

Once an employer receives a request, they must deal with it in a reasonable manner, notify the employee of a decision and can only refuse a request on one or more  prescribed grounds.

Flexible working may be refused on the following grounds:

  • The burden of additional costs
  • Detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand
  • Inability to reorganise work among existing staff
  • Insufficiency of work during the periods the employee proposes to work
  • Detrimental impact on quality of work or performance

Many such requests are made by women returning from maternity leave and employers should be aware that whilst the employee does not have an absolute right to change their hours, if a request is unreasonably refused, then this may amount to sex discrimination leading to claims in the employment tribunal.

Finding the balance between family, home and employment

Working Families is a campaign group and the UK’s work life balance charity.  This helps working parents and carers – and their employers – find a better balance between responsibilities at home and in the workplace.  As well as providing advice to parents and carers, advice is also given to employers and the tools provided to support employees whilst at the same time creating a flexible, high performing workforce.  As there are 13 million working parents in the UK, the subject of work life balance is always going to be on the agenda.  This does however apply to everybody and as stated, all employees with at least 26 weeks continuous service have the right to request changes to their working hours and other terms.

If you feel you have been discriminated against in the workplace you can talk to experienced employment solicitor Paul Grindley on 0113 320 5000 or email your concerns to PaulG@winstonsolicitors.co.uk in the strictest confidence.

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