In April 2003, the UK Government introduced the ‘right to request flexible working’ which historically applied to parents and certain other carers. The legislation was extended from 30 June 2014 to include all employees with at least 26 weeks' continuous employment, regardless of parental or caring responsibilities. Employers have a duty to consider a request in a reasonable manner and can only refuse a request for flexible working if they can show that one of a specific number of grounds apply.
The right to request flexible working doesn't apply to some categories of worker, for example certain agency workers and ‘employee shareholders’. This status, introduced in September 2013, allows employees to give up some of their employment rights in exchange for shares in their employer’s company. The shared parental leave scheme introduced in April 2015 may give parents some additional flexibility.
All employees who have worked for their employer for more than 26 weeks have the right to make one application per year for flexible working. Your employer has to give reasonable consideration to your request, although they will obviously need to take into account the needs of the business and possible impact on other colleagues.
Your request for flexible working could include:
Producing a well-thought out application to work flexibly will help you and your employer work together to reach an agreement which suits both of you.
The request must be made to your employer in writing and your employer must consider your request reasonably and have sound business reasons for turning down your request.
You don’t have to tell your employer why you would like to work flexibly but you are more likely to identify a working arrangement that works for both you and your employer if your employer has this information.
Working carers also have the right to Time off For Emergencies (it’s also known as Time off For Dependants) and gives you the right to a ‘reasonable’ amount of time off work to deal with immediate situations, which could include:
Time off will usually be unpaid, unless your employer chooses to pay you.
If you have a minimum of one year’s continuous service with your employer, and are a Parent Carer of a child under 18, you are entitled to a total of 18 weeks of unpaid leave per child.
To qualify you must:
You may take leave in blocks of a week (usually up to four weeks in any one year) or blocks of a day if the leave is to care for a disabled child (usually up to four weeks in any one year). Agreements in place at your work may allow you to take more than four weeks off in a single year.
Employers can postpone Parental Leave if the leave requested would cause particular disruption to the organisation, for example if several requests have been made for the same period, or if there is a seasonal peak in work.
If an Employer wishes to postpone Parental Leave, they must inform employees within seven days of the request being made, and leave must be granted within six months. Parental Leave cannot be postponed if a request has been made for the time immediately after the birth of a child, or the start of an adoption placement.
If you are looking after someone who is elderly or disabled, the law - under the Equality Act 2010 - will protect you against direct discrimination or harassment because of your caring responsibilities. This is because you are counted as being 'associated' with someone who is protected by the law because of their age or disability.
This is where you’re treated less favourably than someone else because you’re caring for an elderly or disabled person. At work this could include your employer:
The new law will protect you from harassment because you’re looking after an elderly or disabled person. Harassment is unwanted behaviour related to, say, disability or age. It hurts your pride or creates an intimidating, degrading or offensive environment for you.
Does the Equality Act apply to my situation?
There are three things to keep in mind when thinking about whether the Equality Act applies to your situation: