Handling Flexible Working Requests

The impact of the current pandemic has resulted in many employees having to work flexibly.  While there are many employees that are eager to return to the workplace, many have grown accustomed to working from home or working reduced hours. As we continue to ease out of lockdown, it’s possible that employers may receive requests from employees wishing to continue flexible working patterns.

What is considered as flexible working?

Flexible working could include any of the following:

  • reducing full time hours to work part time
  • changing start and finish times
  • flexi time
  • compressed hours
  • working from home
  • job share

Who is eligible to request flexible working?

Every employee now has the statutory right to request flexible working providing they have completed 26 service with their employee. They are only permitted to make one request in any twelve-month period.

How does an employee request flexible working?

Employees must make a formal request in writing specifying the changes they are requesting, the date on which they would like the change to take effect and what effect they think their request would have on the employer

What should you do if you receive a flexible working request?

Requests must be dealt with in a reasonable manner. There is no statutory requirement to hold a meeting with the employee, but you may wish to do so. Employees should be allowed to be accompanied at the meeting if they wish although there is no statutory right to be accompanied.

Does an employee have an automatic right to work flexibly?

Employees have the right to request to work flexibly but they do not have the automatic right to insist on a flexible working pattern

Requests should be considered carefully. Look at the potential benefits of the requested changes and compare these to any adverse impact the change may bring. If you are unable to agree to the change, could you consider other options?

Can I refuse a request?

You can refuse a request, but it must be based on one or more specific grounds such as:

  • the burden of additional costs;
  • a detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand;
  • an inability to reorganise work among existing staff or recruit additional staff;
  • a detrimental impact on quality or performance;
  • insufficiency of work during the periods the employee proposes to work;
  • planned structural changes; or
  • such other grounds as may be specified in regulations.

How long do I have to decide?

You must provide a written response to the employee within three months of receiving the request. This period can be extended with agreement from the employee.

What if the employee is unhappy with the decision?

There is no statutory right of appeal however it would be considered good practice to allow an appeal as it may resolve any issues and prevent a potential grievance.

I have agreed to the change, do I have to issue a new contract?

You should issue a written statement of the change. If the change is extensive you may wish to issue a new contract but there is no legal requirement to do so.

If you need further help or guidance on flexible working or any other HR issues, please contact Highfield HR on 01656 335097.