What Are Your Options If An Employee Makes A Flexible Working Request?

When it comes to flexible working, once known as “flexi-time”, the modern workplace has undergone momentous changes over recent years. Technological advances mean that more and more businesses can operate from anywhere and at any time. Yet it’s not uncommon to find that employers, especially in smaller firms, struggle to keep pace with changes and can feel daunted when competing for (or retaining) great staff.

A fundamental change is a shift in working hours. Long gone are the days of the 9-5, Monday to Friday. We live in a 24/7 world and businesses have had to adapt accordingly. One such adaptation is Flexible Working.

The Flexible Working Request Process

Employees with over 26 weeks of service are now entitled to request flexible working. At first glance, this might seem like it’s going to offer nothing but logistical headaches for you, the employer – but that doesn’t have to be the case.

Let’s start by looking at how to deal with requests for flexible working.

When a request for flexible working is submitted, you are obliged to complete the full consideration process within three months. This process can be broken down into the following three stages:

Stage 1

You receive a written request from a member of your team asking you to consider a change in their work pattern. Within their request, they have proposed the new pattern, and detailed how they think it meets the needs of the business and their ability to fulfil their role.


The clock is now ticking. Within 28 days, you need to meet the employee and discuss their flexible woking request.

Stage 2

Following the meeting, you have 14 days to advise them, in writing of your decision. If you decide that the request is not viable, it must meet one of the following reasons:

  • Availability of work during the periods the employee proposes to work.
  • The burden of additional costs
  • Inability to recruit additional staff
  • Adversely affects customer demands
  • Inability to re-organise work among existing staff
  • Detrimental impact on quality
  • Adverse impact on performance

These may sound complicated, but they are quite logical and based on the ability of your business to continue to function effectively.

If you’re not sure if your reasons comply, contact an HR specialist for advice.

When declining a flexible working request, be clear about your reasons. You may not be delivering the news your employee would like to hear, but by showing that you have seriously considered their request, you’ll probably get a better outcome. Don’t forget that you can offer to review the situation in the future.

Similarly, if you agree with a proposal, you can initially do so for a trial period – a sensible timeframe would probably be around 12 weeks. After the trial, assess with your employee how it worked and what, if anything, was adversely affected.


Your employee has the right to appeal the decision and must do so within 14 days of receipt of your written notification.

Stage 3

Appeals must be heard within 14 days of receipt. As with all disciplinary and grievance procedures, the appeal needs to be heard by the next level of management.

The appeal process aims to try and reach a mutually satisfactory solution. However, if this can’t be achieved, the employee can choose to pursue the matter via ACAS.

At this point, if you haven’t already done so, it would be an excellent idea to get in touch with a qualified and experienced HR Advisor who can support you through this process.


If a case goes to an employment tribunal and is found against you, there will be a financial impact on your business. Having good HR support in place early on means you can ensure robust, accurate records are kept, giving you the best chance of resolving matters before it gets to a tribunal.

Now For The Good News!

The good news surrounding flexible working is that there are lots to be gained by business owners who embrace new ways of working.

Modernising your business operations can be hugely beneficial. Increasing flexibility and implementing policies which positively encourage a satisfactory work-life balance for all employees means you will naturally build positive relationships with your team. Building a collaborative environment that meets the needs of the business and the people working in it, you will gain a reputation for being a great employer. Staff retention will improve and, in turn, you reap the benefits of reducing the costs associated with recruiting and training new staff.

And if your staff feel valued, you can be confident that they will repay you with commitment, loyalty, and flexibility in return.

To understand more about how flexible working can help you, your business and your employees, contact me for an informal chat today!


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