Following coronavirus, lockdown and working from home many employees have been reflecting about their lives. Some cannot wait to get back to “normal” whilst others will wish to change the way they work to fit the way they wish to live their life. So as an employer what does it mean when an employee asks for flexible working?

What is a flexible work request?

Any employee who has at least 26 weeks’ continuous service with their employer and has not made another flexible working request within the preceding 12 months can submit a flexible work request. They can request changes to hours of work, times of work, location of work, etc.

As an employer do I have to accept a flexible working request?

There is no obligation for the employer to accept the request. However, ACAS have stated that it is good practice to go through the process of giving the genuine reason why the request has been refused. There are 8 specifically allowable reasons to refuse the request.

What are the grounds on which I can refuse a flexible working request?

The request may only be refused on one of the following grounds, and even then, only after a fair procedure has been followed:

  • Burden of extra costs to the business
  • Detrimental effect on the Company’s ability to meet customer demand
  • Inability to reorganise work within existing staff
  • Detrimental impact on quality
  • Inability to recruit additional staff
  • Detrimental impact on performance
  • Insufficient work during the periods which the employee requests to work
  • Planned structural changes

The particular grounds must be stated with as much supporting information as possible (at least a couple of paragraphs).

As an employer how do I handle the process of a flexible working request?

If you agree to the flexible working request then you can confirm this in writing to the employee. However, if you are not ready to accept the request then you should schedule a meeting with the employee (usually within 14 days of the request).

If you schedule a meeting you should allow the employee to be accompanied by a fellow employee if they want to be. If then following the meeting you conclude that the request cannot be granted then you should put this in writing with the specific reason why and with as much detail as possible. However be conscious that the employee does have the right to appeal this decision. This will trigger a second meeting – once again the employee can be accompanied – to have a final review to the request.

If you are a business based in London, the Thames Valley or Berkshire or and looking for one-off HR projects support or ongoing outsourced HR then you can contact us through our website www.optimahr.co.uk or alternatively you can call us on 0203 086 8387. We offer free 30-minute HR consultation on any HR topic.