Rejecting a Flexible Working Request

All employees who have worked for their employer for more than 26 weeks have a statutory right to ask for flexible working and the reason for such requests is not confined to those relating to children and child care but can include everything from a desire to volunteer to more time to walk the dogs. However, the more typical scenario is a mother returning from maternity leave requesting to work part time hours rather than full time hours as she did previously.

For those employees whose requests for flexible working are rejected they can bring tribunal claims for breaches of the flexible working legislation and it is not uncommon for claims of direct or indirect sex discrimination to be brought at the same. It is the latter which come with uncapped compensatory awards that worry employers; can it legitimately put its own interests above those of its employees?

Yes it can, said the employment tribunal in the recent case of Whiteman v CPS Interiors Ltd and others. Ms Whiteman, a designer, requested to reduce her hours, work from home and to do most of her work in the evenings following her return from maternity leave after having twins. The employer accepted her request to reduce her hours but refused her requests for both home working and evening working. It was of the opinion that the collaborative way of working its designers have together with the fact that designs often have to be changed at short notice meant working at home mainly in the evening was not possible.  Ms Whiteman resigned and brought claims for breached of the flexible working legislation, constructive dismissal and indirect sex discrimination.

The employment tribunal stated “It is a perfectly proper answer to a flexible working request for an employer… to say ‘granting this request would not be in the best interests of our business; we believe what has been requested would be detrimental to our business in that, at best, it would cause us minor but more than minimal inconvenience’… although it may in certain circumstances be uncharitable to do so, it is not unreasonable for an employer to put…its own interests above those of the employee when considering a flexible working request”.

An employer is therefore not required to live with inconvenience caused to its business by accepting a request to work flexible simply because to refuse would cause greater inconvenience to the employee in question. Provided, its approach is not discriminatory, an employer can reject a flexible working request.

Donna Reynolds is an experienced Employment Law Solicitor and HR Adviser providing help and guidance to SMEs in Fife, Edinburgh and across Scotland.

Corporate directors no more

The next phase in the recent raft of changes to company law has been postponed yet again but once in force  shall require all directors of a company to be natural persons. This means that, from the commencement date companies shall be prohibited   from having another company as a director..

Companies House confirmed at their forum on Wednesday that the commencement date for the ban on corporate directors shall not be October 2016 as planned.

The change is part of a general plan to create more transparency in corporate structure. In October 2008, the rules were changed to require each company to have at least one natural person as a director (previously a company could have all corporate directors). In April 2016, new registers were introduced to identify people with significant control over a company.

The overall aims are to reduce the ease with which complex tax schemes can be hidden behind layers of corporate veils and to increase accountability of those in control.

Historically, corporate directors have been useful, especially in large groups of companies, to avoid the need to appoint different natural persons when roles change and to provide alternatives when one natural person is unavailable or incapacitated. However, it has also too often been used to help those in roles of responsibility to avoid or mitigate accountability.

Soon, a company will no longer be able to appoint a corporate director. Those who already have corporate directors will have one year to remove and/or replace them before they are automatically removed from the register.

Any companies who currently have corporate directors should therefore prepare for the changes without delay.