How to handle a flexible working request

Every employee who has 26 weeks of continuous service has a statutory right to make a request for flexible working. Flexible working request is required to change the working hours or work arrangements. The employee does not need to have childcare or family responsibilities to be able to make this request. The request could be permanent or for a fixed period of time. Most requests are related to childcare, travel time or work life balance. Only one request in any 12 month period is allowed.

The employee needs to put the request in writing, include the date of the request and state whether any previous applications have been made prior. The employer then has 3 months to consider the request and decide. If the request is refused, it must be due to a sound business reason for the rejection. The employees request should in the change they are seeking and date from when they would like the change to take effect. Any changes to the working conditions and how this may affect the business.

 If you receive a request from the employee, you should arrange a meeting to discuss it and ideally this should be carried out as soon as possible. This will give an opportunity to discuss the changes that are being sought.

By law, it is required that the request is completed within 3 months, this includes any appeals.

A refusal of a request, must be from one of the below:

•    the burden of additional costs
•    an inability to reorganise work amongst existing staff
•    an inability to recruit additional staff
•    a detrimental impact on quality
•    a detrimental impact on performance
•    detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand
•    insufficient work for the periods the employee proposes to work
•    a planned structural changes to the business.

Employees are able to complain to an employment tribunal if the employer -

•    did not handle the request in a reasonable manner
•    wrongly treated the employee’s application as withdrawn
•    dismissed or treated an employee poorly because of their flexible working request, eg refused a promotion or pay rise
•    rejected an application based on incorrect facts

An employee will need to make the complaint to the tribunal within 3 months of

•    hearing their employer’s decision
•    hearing their request was treated as withdrawn
•    the date the employer should have responded to their request (but failed to do so)

Employees cannot complain to a tribunal just because their flexible working request was rejected.


Authors: Roxanne Bradley

Published: 26 Jan 2017


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