Flexible working

16 December, 2011
Revoking a work request

When a statutory flexible working request is granted, it becomes a permanent change to the employee's contract. What would happen if, sometime later, you needed to change it could the arrangement be revoked?

The statutory right to request a flexible working arrangement was first introduced by the Employment Act 2002. Since then, it has gradually been extended and now applies to all employees who are parents of children aged under 17 or 18 if the child is disabled and carers of certain adults. Where one is agreed, it amounts to a permanent change to the employee's contract and the Act makes no provision for it to be revoked at a later date.

That does not mean that it cannot be undone, you just have to tread carefully. You could begin by considering why you need to revoke the particular request. It may be appropriate if there has been a change in business circumstances. Where you believe it is unavoidable, establish the following information:

l What has changed within your business that now justifies full-time workplace attendance

l Why it affects this particular employee; and

l Why there is no viable alternative, such as re-allocating certain duties to other staff or taking on a part-time employee.

Having done this, review the business grounds upon which an employer can initially reject a statutory flexible working request. If your current justification falls within one or maybe more, of these grounds for example, planned structural changes to your business, tougher trading conditions and/or the burden of additional costs use it to back up your case.

Next, arrange a meeting with the employee and explain the exact reasons why the issue has arisen it can be helpful to put this in writing beforehand. Allow the employee time to respond and be prepared to listen to any other proposals they may have. Ideally, following this meeting, they will either agree to the revocation or you will reach a mutually agreeable compromise.

Do not state that the required change must happen immediately. An employee is more likely to agree to something voluntarily if they are given sufficient time to prepare for it for example, three months may be needed to arrange alternative care for their dependant.

Should the employee refuse to accept the revocation point-blank, but your request has solid grounds, you could serve them with notice and then dismiss for "some other substantial reason". However, this must always be your last resort after exhausting every other workable option.

When granting a flexible working arrangement, you can protect your position by retaining the contractual right to revoke it later. Even though the Act does not provide for this, there is nothing to stop you putting a clause of this nature in the employee's new contract of employment. Where it exists and you have solid evidence to back up your revocation, they will have difficulty objecting to it.

Members can obtain a 'revocation of flexible working arrangement' clause, by calling the NAMB on 01920 468061.





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