Mike Purcell Accountant and Software Consultant

Employees are one of your most valuable assets. A large amount of investment is put into your employees and a ‘happy’ employee is far more likely to remain in your employment. Flexible working is one way to ensure the longevity of staff as well as a higher level of productivity.

All employees have the legal right to request flexible working and must have worked for the same employer for at least 26 weeks to be eligible. Legislation is currently being reviewed to give workers the right to request flexible working from day one.

Employees can apply for flexible working by making a statutory application. They can only make one application per year.
The basic steps are:

  1. The employee writes to the employer.
  2. The employer considers the request and makes a decision within 3 months - or longer if agreed with the employee.
  3. If the employer agrees to the request, they must change the terms and conditions in the employee’s contract.
  4. If the employer disagrees, they must write to the employee giving the business reasons for the refusal. 
What employers must do

Employers must deal with requests in a ‘reasonable manner’.
Examples of handling requests in a reasonable manner include:

  • Assessing the advantages and disadvantages of the application.
  • Holding a meeting to discuss the request with the employee.
  • Offering an appeal process.
  • An employer can refuse an application if they have a good business reason for doing so.

Employees do not have a statutory right to an appeal. However, offering an appeal process will demonstrate the employer is dealing with the request in a ‘reasonable manner’ 

Types of flexible working

  • Job sharing - Two people do one job and split the hours.
  • Working from home - It might be possible to do some or all of the work from home or anywhere else other than the normal place of work.
  • Part-time - Working less than full-time hours (usually by working fewer days).
  • Compressed hours - Working full-time hours but over fewer days.
  • Flexitime - The employee chooses when to start and end work (within agreed limits) but works certain ‘core hours’, for example 10am to 4pm every day.
  • Annualised hours - The employee has to work a certain number of hours over the year but they have some flexibility about when they work. There are sometimes ‘core hours’ which the employee regularly works each week, and they work the rest of their hours flexibly or when there’s extra demand at work.
  • Staggered hours - The employee has different start, finish and break times from other workers.
Rejecting an application

The employer must tell the employee that they’ve rejected the application and provide legitimate business reasons for doing so.

Reasons for rejecting
Employers can reject an application for any of the following reasons:

  • Extra costs that will damage the business
  • The work cannot be reorganised among other staff
  • People cannot be recruited to do the work
  • Flexible working will affect quality and performance
  • The business will not be able to meet customer demand
  • There’s a lack of work to do during the proposed working times
  • The business is planning changes to the workforce

Please note: This report is provided for information only and was correct as at time of writing (04/01/22). Lists and details provided above are not exhaustive and not intended to be full and complete guidance.  No action should be taken without consulting detailed legislation or seeking independent professional advice. Therefore no responsibility for loss occasioned by any person acting or refraining from action as a result of the material contained in this article can be accepted.