04 October 2021 | Insight

Quick guide to dealing with flexible working requests

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This is a simple guide to help you deal with a flexible working request from one of your employees.

Who can make a request?

Any of your employees can ask to work flexibly.  If they do, you should consider whether you can accommodate their request.  If you don’t look into it, you may risk inadvertently discriminating against your employee and expose yourself to a claim from them.

If they have been with you for 26 weeks or more then they have a legal right to make a request for flexible working.  In this situation you need to follow a set procedure so as not to fall foul of the law.

 

What can then they ask for?

An employee can ask for any change to their working arrangements, so a flexible working request can include a request to:

  • Work part-time
  • Work from home
  • Work compressed hours (the same number of hours but over fewer days)
  • Do a job share (where two or more people split the hours of one job)
  • Work during school term time only

What do we need to do?

  1. Check your employee has been with you long enough

The first thing you should do is check that your employee has worked for you for long enough to make a request under the statutory right to request flexible working. They need to have worked for you for 26 weeks or more when they made the application.

  1. Make sure your employee has made their request in the right way

You should check that your employee has correctly made their request.  Their application must:

  • Be in writing.
  • Be dated.
  • State that it is an application made under the statutory procedure.
  • Set out the change that they are seeking and when they wish the change to take effect.
  • Explain what effect, if any, they think the change would have on your business and how any such effect could be dealt with.
  • State whether they have previously made an application to you and, if so, when. 
  1. Deal with the request in a reasonable manner

You need to deal with any properly made request in a reasonable manner and notify your employee of your decision within three months of the date of their application (or longer period if you both agree it). ACAS has produced a code on how to handle a request, and it suggests you do the following as part of dealing with any request in a reasonable manner:

  • You should arrange a meeting to talk with your employee as soon as possible after receiving their written request (unless you intend to approve the request, in which case in won’t be necessary to meet with your employee).
  • You should allow your employee to be accompanied by a work colleague at any meeting where you give them a decision, including any appeal decision. You should let your employee know about this beforehand.
  • At the meeting(s) with your employee you should discuss their request as this will enable you to get a better idea of the changes they are looking for and how those changes might benefit both you and them. Where possible these meeting(s) should take place in a private place where you can’t be overheard.
  • You should consider the request carefully, looking at the benefits of the requested changes for your employee and for your business and weighing these against any adverse business impact of implementing them. In doing so you must be careful not to discriminate against your employee.
  • Once you have made your decision you must let your employee know the outcome in writing as soon as you can.
  • If you accept the request, or you do so with modifications, you should discuss with your employee how and when the changes might best be implemented
  • You can only refuse the request for one or more of the reasons set out below. If you do refuse your employee’s request, then you should allow them to appeal your decision.
  • You must consider the request (and any appeal), make your decision and write to your employee to let them know the outcome within three months of the date of the request.  
  • If your employee fails to attend a meeting (including an appeal) and a rearranged meeting without a good reason, you can treat the request as withdrawn. If you treat the request as withdrawn you must let your employee know in writing.
  1. Implementing the request

If you accept the request, you should discuss and agree with your employee the best date to start the new arrangements.  You can also discuss and agree to have a trial period if you wish.  This will give both you and your employee a chance to see whether the arrangements work.

At the end of any trial period, or immediately the new arrangements start if you don’t use a trial period, your employee’s contract will change permanently, and they can’t change it back unless you agree.

 

When can we refuse a flexible working request?

There are eight business reasons that allow you to reject a flexible working request.  These are where:

  • The requested arrangements will increase your business costs
  • The requested arrangements will affect your ability to meet customer demands
  • You can’t reorganise work among existing staff
  • You won’t be able to recruit more staff
  • The requested arrangements will affect the quality of your business
  • The requested arrangements will affect the performance of your business
  • There isn’t enough work at the times when your employee wants to work
  • You are planning to change the structure of your business

You should be able to back up your decision with evidence and, ideally, this needs to be more than just anecdotal.

If one of your employees makes a request to work flexibly, then don’t hesitate to call our HR and Employment law team on 01284 767 766 for a chat and some guidance.

Please note this article is provided for general information purposes only to clients and friends of Atkins Dellow LLP. It is not intended to impart legal advice on any matter. Specialist advice should be taken in relation to specific circumstances. Whilst we endeavour to ensure that the information in this article is correct, no warranty, express or implied, is given as to its accuracy, and Atkins Dellow LLP does not accept any liability for error or omission.

© Atkins Dellow LLP 2021

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