How to deal with a request for flexible working

Work/life balance is very important these days and employees are looking at different ways of working. But it's not just about work/life balance as business needs are also changing and customers want goods and services outside traditional business hours. 

There are a number of ways in which your employees could ask to work flexibly: job sharing, working from home, working part time, compressed hours or flexitime. Any employee can ask to work flexibly, but they must have worked continuously for the same employer for 26 weeks.

Making a 'statutory application'

The application must be in writing and must be:

  • dated;
  • say that they’re making the application under the statutory right to request a flexible working pattern;
  • give details about how they want to work flexibly and when they want to start;
  • explain how they think their flexible working will affect the business;
  • say if and when they've made a previous application.

The employer's obligation to consider a flexible working application

As an employer, you have a legal obligation to consider any flexible work request in a 'reasonable manner'. ACAS has published a Code of Practice to inform customers on the procedure for dealing with such a request.

You must make a decision within three months of the request (or longer, if the employee agrees).

If you agree to the flexible working request, you should write to the employee outlining the agreed changes in working hours and the date when they will start working flexibly.

You should also give the employee a new employment contract. You can download a solicitor-approved employment contract from Lawpack.

Refusing a request

You can only refuse a request for flexible working if you have a clear business reason such as the:

  • burden of additional costs;
  • detrimental effect on the ability to meet customer demand;
  • inability to re-organise work among existing staff;
  • inability to recruit additional staff;
  • detrimental impact on quality;
  • detrimental impact on performance;
  • insufficiency of work during the work period proposed; and
  • planned changes to the workforce.

Appeals

Employees no longer have a statutory right to appeal. But, as an employer, you are proving that you have handled the request in a 'reasonable manner' by offering an appeals process.

An employee can go to an employment tribunal -within three months of the request - if the employer:

  • didn’t handle the request in a ‘reasonable manner’;
  • wrongly treated the employee’s flexible working application as withdrawn;
  • dismissed or treated an employee poorly because of their request (e.g. refused them a pay rise or promotion); or
  • based its decision to reject the application on incorrect facts.

Help from Lawpack

If you want more in-depth information – from an employment lawyer – about all aspects of employment law, then read our guide Employment Law Made Easy. Packed with tips and expert advice on complying with employment legislation.

Other information


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Published on: January 26, 2015

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