Handling Flexible Working Requests Reasonably

Last week, we saw what the flexible working rights are in the UK. We have mentioned that employers have a duty to reasonably consider all requests for flexible work. But what does this exactly mean? This is what we’re explaining in detail today.

The request

All requests for flexi working must include the following information:

  • Application date, expected changes to the current working conditions and expected date for coming into effect.
  • What effect the employee thinks this will have on the employer (if any) and their proposition on how this should be dealt with.
  • A clear statement that the request is statutory and a mention if (and when) they have previously applied for flexible working.

Receiving a request

When an employer receives a request, they must consider it. A meeting with the employee should be set up as soon as possible to discuss the request, however employers do not need to set up a discussion if they intend to accept the request. Employees are allowed to be accompanied by a work colleague for all discussions and appeals regarding a request for working flexibly. Employees should be made aware of this by their employer.

This meeting will give the employer a better understanding of what the employee is expecting and how this could positively benefit both the employee and the business.

Considering a request

Employers should consider flexible working requests and weigh the positive benefits for the employee and for the business against the negative effects of implementing these changes.

Once a decision is made, a written statement should be made to inform the employee. This is important to avoid future confusion as well as proving that the employer has carefully considered the request and done so in a reasonable manner.

The following business reasons can be invoked when rejecting a request:

  • Burden of additional costs
  • Cannot reorganise costs amongst existing staff
  • Cannot recruit new staff
  • Negative impact on quality or performance
  • Negative impact on the ability to meet customer demand
  • Not enough work for when the employee proposes to work
  • Planned structural change

Employees have the right to appeal the decision. During the appeal, sometimes employees will reveal new information or omissions.

The law requires that all requests must be considered within a period of 3 months from receipt (including any appeals) unless employer and employee agree on extending this period.

If an employee fails to attend both a planned meeting and a rearranged meeting for discussion, then employers have the right to consider the request withdrawn. They must inform the employee they have done so.

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