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Managing flexible working requests

Posted on 04th April 2024 in Employment

Posted by

Mai Mbye

Managing flexible working requests

From the 6th April 2024, employees will be able to make a statutory flexible working request from day 1 (removing the requirement to have at least 26 weeks’ continuous service).

The legislation also welcomes the following additional changes:

  • Employees will now be able to make two statutory flexible working requests in any 12-month period as opposed to one. Bear in mind that when determining the number of requests made during a 12-month period, requests made before the new legislation came into force will be included.
  • Employers will have only two months to respond to the request (previously this was three months). It will still be possible for the parties to agree a longer period if required.
  • Employees will no longer be required to set out the potential effects that their flexible working request will have on the employer (now placing the onus on employers to determine this).
  • Before declining a request, employers will be required to consult with employees first to explore other options.

The new Statutory Code of Practice

Acas have published a new statutory Code of Practice on requests for flexible working which also comes into effect. This provides employers and employees with more information on good practice for handling requests. 

Frequently asked questions

How should a statutory request be made?

The request must still be in writing, clearly stating that the application is made under the statutory procedure. The date of the request should be included together with details of any previous applications made under the statutory scheme. The application will also need to set out the details of the proposed arrangements including the proposed start date.

What changes can an employee request?

A flexible working request may propose:

  • A change to the times when the employee is required to work (e.g. different start and / or finish times)
  • A change to the number of hours worked (e.g. a reduction in hours)
  • A change to the place of work (as between the employee’s home and any of the employer's workplaces)

Can a flexible working request be refused?

In some cases, yes, but the employer has to properly consider the request and cannot reject it until they have consulted with the employee.

When a flexible working request is made in line with the statutory scheme, employers must deal with the request in a reasonable manner. This requires employers to follow a reasonable process which includes inviting the employee to a consultation meeting to discuss the request. Discussions about any potential modifications or alternative flexible working options that may be available should also be explored.

Whilst there is no absolute right for an employee’s request to be accepted, employers can only refuse for one of a number of permitted reasons:

  • The burden of additional costs.
  • Detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand.
  • Inability to reorganise work among existing staff.
  • Inability to recruit additional staff.
  • Detrimental impact on quality.
  • Detrimental impact on performance.
  • Insufficiency of work during the periods the employee proposes to work.
  • Planned structural changes

In addition to the statutory rules, an employer which is contemplating refusing a request should also be alive to the possibility of a discrimination claim and may wish to seek specific advice about this.

What happens if the requested is accepted?

Once the changes have been agreed in principle, the employer should set out the new working arrangements in writing. There is also a requirement to formalise any changes by incorporating the new terms into the employment contract.

If you would like more advice on flexible working requests and how to deal with them, please get in touch with our employment team.

Find out more

For any other help or support please contact our dedicated Employment Law team who are best placed to advise you on employment, employees and flexible working.

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