Although it may feel as though summer has only just ended, Christmas is right around the corner and with this comes the request for more flexible working hours and annual leave from workers.
For some businesses, Christmas may be a time where things are quieter and flexible working hours may be more readily available for workers. However, for many businesses the Christmas period may be the complete opposite and flexible working hours or demands for annual leave may seem almost impossible.
Demands for flexible working – pointers for employers and employees
So there is a balancing act between keeping workers happy during the festive season and having enough people to run the workplace efficiently. Planning for the Christmas period well in advance and understanding the rights of both the employee and employer will help keep things as fair and harmonious as possible.
As I am sure you are aware statute entitles most workers to 28 days annual leave a year, this amounts to 5.6 weeks. Part time workers are also entitled to 5.6 weeks of annual leave; but this will be on a pro rata basis according to the number of hours worked.
Workers have the right to get paid for their annual leave. However, there is no statutory entitlement for paid public holidays.
Can a request for annual leave be refused?
Letting workers know the businesses policy in advance when it comes to annual leave at Christmas will help avoid disputes and allow workers to know where they stand.
The general notice period a worker needs to give for taking leave is twice is long as the amount of leave they want to take. An employer can refuse a leave request, but they must give as much notice as the amount of leave requested. Although an employer can refuse to give leave at a specific time, they cannot refuse to let workers take leave at all.
Therefore if your business is extremely busy over the Christmas period then it is possible to refuse a workers request for annual leave.
The right to request flexible working
Over the Christmas period people often have more family or childcare commitments due to the school holidays. This may mean more requests for flexible working. Flexible working can come in many forms, for example it may include working from home, working part time or shift work.
Under the Employment Rights Act 1996 an employee has a statutory right to ask their employer to change their contractual terms and conditions of employment to work flexibly so long as they have worked for the employer for 26 weeks continuously at the date the application was made.
ACAS sets out some key guidance when it comes to a worker requesting flexible working:
- Requests should be in writing stating the date or the request and whether any previous application has been made and the date of that application.
- Requests and appeals must be considered and decided upon within three months of the receipt of the request.
- Employers must have a sound business reason for rejecting any request.
- Employees can only make one request in any 12 month period.
They also recommend that a policy should be created to ensure requests are handled fairly.
Is an employee obliged to agree to a request for flexible working?
An employer is under no statutory obligation to grant a request to work flexibly if they have considered the changes the employee is requesting, weighed up the advantages and disadvantages of accepting the request, and decided that it cannot be accommodated by the business.
However, the employer needs to be as fair and reasonable as possible when coming to a decision in order to ensure a happy workforce and avoid any form of dispute.
If an agreement for flexible working is made this will be a permanent change to the terms and conditions of employment. If the worker does not wish to make a permanent change then a temporary change can be negotiated with the employer.
Overall knowing both the businesses and employees rights when it comes to annual leave and flexible working will help ensure a fair and efficient process is adopted and avoid disputes. Informing employees of the procedure around the Christmas period will further help to make the process as smooth as possible.
Insurance – you can insure this stuff!
There are no guarantees that disputes will not happen. Employment Practices insurance covers businesses if there is a dispute. Our cover will also defend the business regardless of the prospect of success.
Please make contact if you would like to know more.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0207 648 4343 for more information.