How do I manage requests for flexible working?

Since June 2014 eligible employees have the legal right to request flexible working and employers and employers are still struggling with how to manage these requests.

‘Eligible workers’ must be an employee and have at least 26 weeks’ continuous employment at the date they apply and have the right to request changes to hours, times and place of work.

Every application must:

  • be made in writing and dated
  • state that it is an application under the statutory right to apply for flexible working arrangements
  • specify the change applied for and the date on which it is proposed that the change should become effective
  • explain what effect making the change applied for would have on the Company and how the employee suggests any such effect might be dealt with.

A formal meeting will be held where the employee has the right to be accompanied by a colleague to discuss the application.


Employers can place restrictions on the operation of flexible working if it is necessary for the proper conduct of its business.

If the request is refused, the reason(s) will be put in writing to the employee setting out on which of the permitted grounds (listed below) the application was refused, an explanation why those grounds apply and set out the appeal procedure.

The application may be refused on one or more of several grounds, these being that the proposed changes will result in:

  • a burden of additional cost
  • a detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand
  • an inability to re-organise work among existing staff
  • an inability to recruit additional staff
  • a detrimental effect on quality
  • a detrimental effect on performance
  • an insufficiency of work during the periods you propose to work
  • a planned structural change
  • any other ground allowed by regulations.

In deciding whether the above grounds are met, a wide range of criteria will be taken into account, including (by way of example only) the following:

  • the Company’s business needs
  • the suitability of the job for the flexible arrangements proposed, e.g. the nature of the work, the hours needed and the need for continuity and consistency
  • the current balance of full-time and part-time employees and other flexible working arrangements within the department or team
  • the feasibility of covering the remaining hours


There is the right to appeal against a decision to refuse an application for flexible working which should be made within 7 days after the date of the decision. The notice of appeal must be in writing, setting out the grounds for appeal.   A meeting will be held to discuss the appeal and afterwards the decision will be put in writing to the employee. If the employer upholds the appeal the letter will specify the contract variation agreed to and date on which it is to take effect. If the employer dismisses the appeal, the letter will state the grounds for the decision and contain an explanation as to why those grounds apply.

This is a high level overview and if you would like to know more please do contact me.   My recommendation is always that for statutory rights employers have a clear policy in place from the start, rather than being caught unprepared at a later date!