Flexible working requests: what employers need to consider


Research has indicated many positive business benefits associated with a more flexible workforce including greater staff loyalty and improved retention rates, high levels of employee satisfaction, reduced stress and therefore fewer days loss to absence, higher levels of productivity and substantial cost savings through reduced office space. However, before such a request is granted, there are a few things that employers need to consider.

When an employer receives a flexible working request from an employee they must deal with the request in a ‘reasonable manner’. In relation to providing an employee with a decision, although there is no legal right to appeal the outcome of the decision, it is generally considered best practice to do so. Any requests and subsequent appeals must be considered and decided upon within three months of the receipt of the request (which can be extended by agreement).

It is good practice to have a meeting with the employee to discuss their request. However, if the employer is happy to approve the request, there is no requirement to have a meeting. If a meeting does take place, an employer should permit the employee who made the request to be accompanied by a colleague or trade union representative.

Where a flexible working request is legitimately made, an employer must rely on one of the below prescribed reasons in order to reject an employee’s request. A business must therefore carefully consider the business rationale for rejecting the request and challenge itself against the following business reasons:

  • 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

If an employer is unsure whether it can approve a flexible working request, it can offer the employee the opportunity to try out their required flexible working arrangements during a trial period. This gives both the employer and the employee the ability to see whether there is any negative impact on the business should the flexible working arrangements be approved. In such circumstances it would be sensible for an employer to agree an extension to the decision period in writing. An employee is, however, unable to insist on a trial period.


Kayleigh Leonie

If you have questions about flexible working and how it may affect or benefit your business, get in touch with us on hello@tandonhildebrand.com.

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