Flexible Working and the right to request

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11 October, 2022

Ashleigh Dibb

Flexible working is an arrangement that allows employees to vary the amount, timing, or location of their work.

As a result of the pandemic, the UK has seen a huge shift towards hybrid and flexible working, with many roles being undertaken more productively from home without the time, cost, and effort of workplace travel.

As flexible working becomes increasingly more popular, companies unable or unwilling to adapt to such models may find themselves in receipt of more Flexible Working Requests from employees seeking more flexibility from their employers.

Under the Employment Rights Act 1996, every employee with at least 26 weeks continuous service has the right to make a Flexible Working Request, for any reason whether this be reduction in hours or changes to working patterns.

An employee will trigger the statutory process by making a written request in which they detail the following:

  • The date of their application
  • The change to working conditions they are seeking and when they would like the change to come into effect
  • What effect the change may have on the employer and how this effect could be dealt with
  • A statement that they are making a statutory request and if/when they have made a previous application for flexible working.

How to deal with Flexible Working Requests as an employer:

When an employer receives a statutory Flexible Working Request, they should consider the request within a 3-month period. An employer should make the arrangements to speak with the employee as soon as possible after receiving the request and should inform the employee that they can be accompanied by a fellow work colleague should they wish to do so.

Any Flexible Working Requests must be dealt with in a 'reasonable manner' which is likely to include assessing the advantages and disadvantages of the application, holding a meeting to discuss the request with the employee and offering an appeal process.

If an employer is not able to grant a request, alternative options should be explored. It is however possible for an employer to reject a Flexible Working Request, so long as the rejection is for one or more of the following grounds:

  • The burden of the additional costs
  • The inability to reorganise work amongst existing staff
  • An inability to recruit additional staff
  • A detrimental impact on quality
  • A detrimental impact on performance
  • A detrimental effect of ability to meet customer demand
  • Insufficient work for the periods the employee proposes to work
  • A planned structural change to your business

Should an employer have grounds to reject a Flexible Working Request, the employee in question will be unable to submit a further request for the for next 12 months.

Employers should be cautious that should they fail to reasonably deal with a Flexible Working Request, an employee may bring a claim to the Employment Tribunal, which could result in the Tribunal awarding a maximum of 8 weeks' pay as compensation to be paid by the employer.

For more information contact Ashleigh Dibb in our Employment & HR department via email or phone on 01772 220250. Alternatively send any question through to Forbes Solicitors via our online Contact Form.

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