The Right to Request Flexible Working

Guidance for Employers

The Right to Request Flexible Working

Any employee who has more than 26 weeks’ service has a legal right to request flexible working which covers not just the hours that they work, but also where they work them. This post gives insight into the rules and what as an employer you should do when you receive a flexible working request.

The Right to Request Flexible Working

9 May, 2021

by Lianne Lambert

It used to be that any employee who was caring for someone, be that a child or an adult, had a legal right to have a request for flexible working be considered by their employer.  That right was extended in 2014 so now any employee who has more than 26 weeks’ service can submit a request for flexible working.

During 2020 and early 2021, many people were required to work from home due to the Covid pandemic. As England slowly starts to return to normal, many businesses will be asking their employees to return to the office. Some will skip back, relieved to no longer be spending all of their time at home. For others, home working has really worked for them. They have proved that they can do their job from home and it’s very likely that employers are going to face a lot of flexible working requests as people to look to make a permanent change to their normal place of work. Knowing how to handle these requests is important as there is a statutory process that you are required to follow.

The questions answered in this post are:

1. What Can a Flexible Working Request Cover?

A flexible working request can cover changing the number of hours an individual works per week, keeping the same number of hours but structuring the working day differently, or changing the normal place of work.

2. What Should You Do When You Receive a Flexible Working Request?

When you receive a flexible working request, the first thing to do is to consider the request.

If you can easily comply with what is being asked and are happy to approve the request, you need to write to the employee and confirm this and then issue them with an updated contract of employment which permanently changes their terms and conditions.

The challenge arises when you do not believe that the request will work for the business. In this case, you need to arrange a meeting with the employee to discuss the request. You should be clear about why you have reservations regarding the practicality of what is being asked and look to work with the employee to address the concerns.

3. Can You Have a Trial Period for a Flexible Working Request?

You do have an option to agree to a trial period and this is something that we would strongly recommend if at all possible. It can be quite difficult to provide strong evidence as to why a particular flexible working model would not work for the business, but, if you undertake a trial period, you can gather evidence around why it does not work. Of course, it’s possible that it will work and then everyone will be happy!

4. Can You Turn Down a Flexible Working Request?

If you do want to turn down a flexible working request, either before or after a trial period, then the reasons for your refusal need to be covered by one of the legally allowable reasons for refusing the request.

The reasons that you can refuse a flexible working request are:

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

If you need any help with flexible working requests, give us a call on 0203 319 1649 or use our contact form and we’ll get back to you right away.

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