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UK Government Starts Consultation on Flexible Work

UK Government Starts Consultation on Flexible Work

​During the last general election, the U.K. government included a manifesto pledge to make flexible work the default position unless employers have a good reason not to make it so. In 2019, the government launched the Flexible Working Taskforce—a partnership across government departments, business groups, trade unions and charities to encourage employers to consider advertising jobs at all levels and pay grades as flexible. But things had gone quiet and this commitment wasn’t included in the most recent Queen’s Speech.However, the government has now launched a consultation which sets out a number of proposals. These are built around the principle that working arrangements are best decided through dialogue between the parties. The government intends to provide, what it calls an “enabling framework” within which these conversations can take place rather than setting out specific legal requirements.The government will not change the law to allow employees a right to have flexible work. Employees will still have to initiate the discussion, as they do now, and the focus of the consultation is to support employees to start these conversations and help employers to respond to them.In other words, the government has no intention of making flexible work the default position.It has set out five specific proposals:1. Making the right to request flexible work a ‘day one’ rightCurrently employees can make a request to work flexibly under the statutory procedure only if they’ve worked for their employer for at least 26 weeks. The government believes that making flexible work available at the outset of the employment relationship will help encourage employers to consider flexible working options early in job design/recruitment process and give employees more confidence to make a request. It is asking for views about whether the qualifying period can be removed and what benefits this might deliver.However, it does not intend to impose a legal duty on employers to say in job advertisements whether they are open to flexible work.2. Ensuring that the eight business grounds for turning down a request remain validEmployers who turn down a request to work flexibly under the statutory scheme must be able to point to one or more of the business grounds set out in the legislation. The government doesn’t believe that these present a disproportionate barrier to flexible working (they don’t) and doesn’t think that they need to be changed. However, it wants to find out if the existing business reasons are still appropriate.3. Requiring the employer to consider alternativesCurrently, an employer can turn down a request if it has relevant business reason. It doesn’t have to consider alternatives to the one proposed, although, in practice, many employers do. The government wants to explore whether it’s practical to ask employers to set out, when rejecting a request, what alternatives it’s considered (and, if viable, presumably offered to the employee). It believes that asking employers to consider alternatives will help influence organizational norms.4. Reviewing the administrative process underpinning the processCurrently, an employee can make only one statutory request every 12 months and the employer has three months to …

Remote Work Was Not a Reasonable Accommodation for a Team Member Position

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Remote Work Was Not a Reasonable Accommodation for a Team Member Position

A health care fraud specialist (HCFS) for the Defense Health Agency (DHA) who worked on a four-person team could not establish that remote work was a reasonable accommodation for his position, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled.In April 2010, the DHA hired the plaintiff as an HCFS assigned to the Program Integrity Office (PIO) in Aurora, Colo. As an HCFS, the plaintiff coordinated with various law enforcement agencies to investigate fraud in the military’s health care system. Along with two other health care fraud specialists, the plaintiff served on a four-person team led by his immediate supervisor. His second-level supervisor was the PIO director.Shortly after his hire, the plaintiff told his supervisors that he had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, and other panic and anxiety disorders related to his military service. The plaintiff also told them that these conditions affected his ability to manage stress, concentrate and communicate, and that stressful environments aggravated his symptoms and caused panic attacks. Despite his disabilities, the plaintiff received satisfactory performance reviews.When the plaintiff’s symptoms worsened in September 2011, he was hospitalized and received in-patient treatment for one week. The agency approved his request for leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and continued to approve FMLA leave after he returned to work, ultimately approving 12 weeks during his first two years on the job.In May 2012, the plaintiff formally requested accommodations for his disabilities. Among other things, the plaintiff wanted to work remotely twice a week and to work weekends to make up lost time. The agency rejected those requests but allowed him to telework one day per week, even though office policy at the time permitted only one telework day every two weeks. The agency also eliminated the plaintiff’s air travel—a function that it deemed nonessential to his job. It provided him with a noise-canceling headset and sent employees an e-mail reminding them to reduce noise levels around cubicles. The plaintiff rejected other measures the agency offered to reduce office-related stress, including moving his cubicle to a less-trafficked area, raising the walls of his cubicle and allowing unpaid wellness breaks.The plaintiff met with his immediate supervisor to request a transfer to another supervisor’s team. The supervisor denied the request because the other supervisor had no openings on his team at the time. About a year later, he asked the PIO director for a supervisor swap after a dispute with his immediate supervisor. This request was denied.During the plaintiff’s remaining time with the agency, he had a strained relationship with his supervisors. In September 2013, he had a heated argument with his supervisor after his supervisor requested more work from him on a case investigation. The supervisor claimed that the plaintiff threw a case folder at him, and the PIO director issued the plaintiff a reprimand letter.In July 2014, the plaintiff e-mailed his supervisor, claiming bias and prejudice in his denial of another supervisor-transfer request. The supervisor responded and explained his decision, criticized the plaintiff’s poor attitude, refuted …

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