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Flexible Working Requests: Regulations and Employer Responsibilities

Last updated May 7 2024 | Employment Law

by Rebecca McLean

by Rebecca McLean

In this article
Do flexible working requests have to be formal?

If your employee chooses a formal, ‘statutory’ working request, they must specify this and submit their request in writing. This must include the date, when they want the changes to start, and what change they want in their work pattern.

Informal flexible working requests are also an option. This is where there is an agreement between the employer and employee, usually through an open discussion.

What were the previous flexible working requirements?

Previously, the application requirements for flexible working requests were:

  • The employee must have worked at the company for at least 26 weeks before submitting a request.
  • Requests had to include how their flexible working would affect the business and why the employer should accept it.
  • The employer had 3 months to respond to a request.
  • Employees could submit 1 request per 12-month period.

These rules are no longer the case as of 6th April 2024.

What are the changes?

The updates to the flexible working regulations include:

  • Employees can request flexible working from their first day at the job.
  • 2 requests can be made in a 12-month period.
  • Employees don’t need to provide information about how their request may or may not affect the business.
  • Employers must make decisions within 2 months.
  • If the employer doesn’t accept the request, they must book a meeting to discuss the reason before rejection.
  • Rejection is only acceptable if the flexible working will have a detrimental effect on the business in accordance with regulations.

Employers can deny requests and there is no longer a mandatory appeal process. Any appeal process is at the company’s discretion, but it is good practice to have one in place and is part of implementing reasonable procedures.

Flexible working request process flowchart

What are some potential reasons for flexible working requests

An employee doesn’t have to give a reason for wanting to change their work patterns. But it could be in both your best interests to have a discussion around this.

It is common for people to change their work hours due to parental or caregiving responsibilities, in which case denying their request could class as discriminatory.

Are there any acceptable or reasonable grounds to decline a request?

You can only deny someone’s flexible working requests for genuine business reasons. There are 9 legal grounds to refuse an application for flexible working, which are:

  1. Their new hours would incur extra and damaging costs to the business
  2. No one else can fulfil the work affected by the changes
  3. Recruitment limitations when making up for the change
  4. Overall concerns about quality of work
  5. Concerns surrounding performance
  6. Problems meeting business demand
  7. The new hours don’t have enough demand to fulfil
  8. The business is already planning changes that affect the request
  9. Any additional reasons as defined by the Secretary of State

If you want to refuse an application, you must book a meeting with the employee to discuss their request before you deny it and provide them with reasons why.

Positives of flexible working
  • Better work-life balance.
  • Increased productivity.
  • Improved well-being.
  • Greater job satisfaction, leading to increased staff retention.
  • Reduced costs for both the employer and employee, e.g. less office space to pay for and less travel costs.
  • A sense of trust and boosted morale.
  • Fewer sick days used.
  • A more diverse and inclusive workforce.
Negatives of flexible working
  • Feelings of isolation, especially for remote workers and those who won’t interact as much with colleagues.
  • Blurred boundaries between home life and work life.
  • Changes to work hours may cause worries about potential progression routes.
  • Adaptations to support different types of working can take time and incur costs.
  • Communication challenges when working different hours and places.
  • Security issues.
  • Difficulties with maintaining company culture and collaboration.
  • Prejudice from colleagues who believe the flexible worker is not working as hard.

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Like it, share it.

If you found the contents of this blog useful, please feel free to share it on social media. Sharing our article helps others in need find the same information.