12 November, 2015
1. Who can request flexible working and can the employer reject the request?
This has been a hot topic this month and we have been inundated with questions regarding flexible working. Despite the new rules coming into force in 2014, it appears that many employers are still unsure of how to deal with flexible working requests.
Top Tip -
The new rules allow all employees the right to request flexible working hours and can expect their request to be considered 'in a reasonable manner' by their employer. Guidance suggests that no request is more deserving than another e.g. parents will not necessarily be given priority. So what does reasonable mean? To consider your request, discuss the request with you and communicate their decision as soon as practicable.
The change will only affect employees with more than six months' service and a request can only be made once in any 12 month period.
An employer does have the right to reject a request but it must be for a genuine business reason, which falls into one of eight statutory business reasons. A rejection must be reasonable and the employer will need to prove all requests have been considered fully and the process well documented.
Given modern technology, work has become more accessible and so we have seen many employers depart from the traditional 9-5 office routine and embrace flexible working requests. However, an employer must bear in mind that any request, is still only a request and not an entitlement to flexible working. An employer has to consider the needs of its business and the main priority in education has to be the pupils.
2. How important is a disciplinary procedure?
In October the Education Team delivered a session on investigation training at our HR retreat. The session explored how important it is for a reasonable investigation to be carried out by an employer.
Top Tip -
Disciplinary and grievance procedures are frameworks which provide clear structures for dealing with what can be difficult situations, in particular the investigatory stage. A robust and thorough policy will ensure all investigations and procedures are handled in a fair and consistent manner. Failing to conduct a fair and reasonable investigation can render a potentially fair dismissal, unfair. Every School should have a written disciplinary policy. By having an effective procedure it will ensure that both the school and staff members have an effective procedure to solve any issues.
If you would like some further information on the seminars we run on managing workplace investigations or further information about compiling a robust disciplinary policy please contact a member of our team.
3. Dealing with long-term sickness absence. Is it ever fair to dismiss?
Employers are not expected to keep a sick employee's job open indefinitely, however it is necessary to manage any sickness absence in a fair way. Long-term sickness absence is a complex issue to deal with but there is a common misconception that an employee who has been off sick for a long period cannot be dismissed due to sickness. The employer will need to address issues of 'capability' and the employee's capability to do the job role assigned. Capability is potentially a fair reason for dismissal but you must ensure you do not discriminate against someone for a long-term sickness absence, which could potentially amount to a disability.
Top Tip -
Following the introduction of the Equality Act 2010, disabled employees are now protected under the legislation and an employer cannot discriminate directly or indirectly against a person with protected characteristics.
Schools will need to assess the impact of the sickness absence on the school, the pupils and fellow colleagues in managing the absence. Every case must be determined on its own facts but it is important to ensure that you have a thorough sickness absence management procedure in place to ensure that periods of illness are dealt with in a fair and consistent manner.