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How can flexible working hours help me look after my elderly parent?

As our parents get older they may start to face various health challenges. It can be difficult to fit their hospital and GP appointments into a full-time work schedule but with recent changes to flexible working legislation you can now apply to amend your contracted hours in order to help your parents without having to take sick leave or eat into your allotted holiday.

This is a positive change for those of us balancing eldercare responsibilities with mounting work and social commitments not to mention caring for our own family’s needs. The government is now urging employers to consider, understand and accept that more and more employees will be faced with caring for an ageing population as time moves on.

For an updated report on how employers can help employees to juggle working and eldercare, take a look at our recent article on way to retain skilled staff. 

What are flexible working hours?

Depending on how much support your parent needs there are various ways you can request to adapt your working hours to fit in with their care. You can ask to share your job with another employee (splitting the hours between you), you can work from home, work part-time and compress your hours so that you’re completing full-time hours over fewer days.

You can also stagger your hours or request flexitime in order to choose when you start and finish work (within agreed limits) as well as when you take your breaks. Other options include agreeing to work a set number of hours annually with the option of working them flexibly and phased retirement which allows you to choose whether you want to retire, reduce your hours or work part time in the run up to leaving work.

When did the flexible working legislation change?

Since the amendment to The Children and Families Act 2014 which came into effect on June 30th 2014 every employee who has worked for a business for 26 weeks or more has the legal right to request flexible working hours.

How has the flexible working legislation changed?

Before these changes came into effect only employees who were parents or guardians to a child aged 17 or under or were carers could request flexible working hours. Now the right to request flexible working has been extended to all employees (providing they’ve worked 26 continuous weeks for the same employer).

What does the change to flexible working legislation mean for me?

If you’re already a carer for your parent or relative you’ll understand how important the right to request flexible working hours can be when it comes to managing both your work commitments and your parent’s needs.

With this new legislation in place there can be greater transparency between you and your employer about your responsibilities outside of the workplace. If your parent needs more help and more of your time than you can currently give requesting flexible working hours can give you a chance to meet their care needs while maintaining your career.

How do I apply for flexible working hours?

A request for flexible working hours must be put to your employer in writing stating the date it was written, the change you’d like to make to your hours as well as the date you’d like the changes to come into effect.

You must also explain how a change to your working hours could affect the business and how this could be dealt with and whether you’ve made a previous flexible working application. The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has created an application form you can fill in to give your employer. Be aware that you can only make one application for flexible working a year.

Why could your flexible working hours request be refused?

If your employer rejects your application for flexible working hours it could be for a number of different reasons including incurring extra costs, inability to redistribute your work among existing staff or the negative impact your flexible hours could have on work quality and performance.

Your employer may also reject your application if they can’t recruit people to share your workload, if they have serious concerns over meeting customer demand, your workload significantly diminishes or there are planned changes to the workforce.

How do I appeal a rejection?

While employees no longer have the statutory right to appeal an employer’s decision most employers will have an appeal process in place to demonstrate that they’re handling employee requests in a reasonable manner.

Once you’ve received a rejection in writing from your employer you have 3 months in which to complain to an employment tribunal for the decision to be reconsidered.

What if I’m an employer?

If you’re an employer the first thing to do is include a Flexible Working Policy in your employment documentation to ensure it remains legislatively compliant. The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) has drafted a new code of practice for employers to follow which details how to handle flexible work requests in a reasonable manner which could also be useful for briefing managers within your company.

To find out more about flexible working, the employee application process or the procedures to put in place as an employer ACAS has in-depth information to help you make the right decision.

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