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How to deal with flexible working requests

How to deal with flexible working requests

Now that all employees with 26 weeks service are able to make statutory flexible working requests, it’s even more important for managers to understand how to deal with the process in accordance with the rules. Ensuring that your company has a flexible working policy in place can help you manage any requests.

Receiving a flexible working request

Any members of staff who wish to make a formal request for flexible working should do so in writing. If you receive such a request, first check two things:

1. Has the individual making the request been employed at your company for at least 26 weeks? If not, you’re not statutorily obliged to consider their request (although you may still wish to do so).

2. Have they made a previous flexible working request within the last 12 months? If so, you’re not required to formally consider the new request. There must be a 12 month gap between any such requests.

If the employee making the request has completed 26 weeks’ service and hasn’t made a previous flexible working request during the last 12 months, you should record the date of receipt as you will need to respond within three months. You should also acknowledge receipt.

Considering a request

You are required to consider any valid request in a “reasonable manner” and you can only refuse it on the following business grounds:

• burden of additional costs
• detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand
• inability to re-organise 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 change

All requests should be dealt in the same way to avoid any potential for discrimination claims. Unless you decide to automatically grant the request, you should arrange a meeting with your employee to discuss to which they’re allowed to bring a work colleague.

Responding to the request

After having weighed the pros and cons of any particular flexible working request, you are obliged to make a decision and respond to the employee within three months of receiving their request. This time frame can be extended if previously agreed with them.

The Acas Code of Practice on handling flexible working requests (http://www.acas.org.uk/media/pdf/f/e/Code-of-Practice-on-handling-in-a-reasonable-manner-requests-to-work-flexibly.pdf) recommends giving the right of appeal to any employees whose requests are not granted. Although this is not a statutory obligation, it can go towards demonstrating that the request has been dealt with in a “reasonable manner”.

We have a range of documents and letters which are helpful for employers who are dealing with flexible working requests. These can be downloaded from our Employment Documents Folder. Click on the relevant links below for further information.

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