Flexible working requests – getting it right!

What is your approach to flexible working and how should a flexible working request be handled?

‘Flexible working’ is a working arrangement not only to benefit the employee but also has associated business benefits and provides flexibility to how and when employees work.

The Employment Rights Act 1996, under section 80F permits a statutory right to request contract variation through submitting a flexible working application.

To make a flexible working application an employee should be continuously employed with their current employer for a period of at least 26 weeks.

An employer must consider all requests reasonably and inform the employee of that decision as soon as possible.

If the employee’s request is accepted, you should discuss the changes with the employee as soon as possible. Be aware that this would be a permanent change to the employee’s contract and employees can only make one request in any 12-month period.

It is a statutory requirement for the process to be completed within three months of the request being received, to include appeals.

A request can only be refused where there is a business reasons for doing so, such as:

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


 ‘Good practice’ tips for handling a successful flexible working request:

  • Once the request is received, the employer should arrange a meeting as soon as possible to discuss and allow the employee to be accompanied at the meeting if they so wish
  • Communicate and keep the employee informed
  • Ensure the decision is based on business reasons and not based on the assumption that the employee will be less productive or less reliable

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