Hannah Roberts
Paralegal
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Date Published:06 Nov 2020 Last Updated:13 Apr 2021

Can you reject a flexible working request?

Employment Law Advice

Yes, you can reject a flexible working request. However, this needs to be for one of 8 business reasons.

Particularly in the current working environment impacted by COVID-19 pandemic, flexible working requests are becoming increasingly common in the workplace. Sometimes the requests can be beneficial for both parties, however sometimes the business simply cannot accommodate the request.

Who can request flexible working?

Employees have a legal right to make a flexible working request if they have worked for you for at least 26 continuous weeks
(and have not make any other flexible working request in the previous 12 months).

What must be included in the request?

To qualify as a flexible working request, it must state it is a request for flexible working, specify changes and dates they propose implementing the changes, explain any effect they think it will have on the business/how this can be overcome, be in writing and dated and refer to any previous requests made.

What can be requested?

The legal guidelines are quite broad, a request can be made to change for example: the amount of hours worked, the times
required to work, or place of work.

This leaves it very open for the changes that may be requested i.e. compressed hours, work from home, changing start/finish time or reducing hours.

How do we respond to a flexible working request?

The first step is to acknowledge receipt of the request. The request must then be considered carefully, weighing up the benefits for the employee and potential benefits or impact on the business, being careful not to discriminate against the employee in the process.

Requests must be dealt with in a reasonable manner, including meeting with the employee if a discussion is required (allowing a colleague to accompany them) and allowing them the right to appeal if the request is rejected.

It is a legal requirement to notify the employee of your decision within 3 months of the request being made, unless an extension is mutually agreed.

What if we cannot accommodate the request?

Requests can be refused if one or more of the following statutory reasons apply:

  1. burden of additional costs;
  2. detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand;
  3. unable to re-organise work among existing staff;
  4. unable to recruit additional staff;
  5. negative impact on quality;
  6. negative impact on performance;
  7. insufficient work to do during proposed working times; and/or
  8. there are planned changes to the business i.e. the employer plans to reorganise or change the business and thinks the request will not fit with these plans.

ACAS Guidance on flexible working

ACAS have published two useful guides on this topic:

  1. For businesses: Code of Practice on handling requests in a reasonable manner;
  2. For employees: making a flexible working request.

Need advice?

If you have any queries or wish to discuss a flexible working request that you have made or received, please do not hesitate to contact one of our experienced Employment Lawyers on 01202 525333 for further advice.