Is working from the office ancient history?  – A brief guide to handling flexible working requests

by | Jul 20, 2021 | Blog

Now that we have received confirmation from the government that we can return to our workplaces, we anticipate employers will see an increase in flexible working requests. This is down to the fact new research has found nearly half of employees would consider leaving their job post pandemic if they employer did not offer flexible working moving forward, 39% of people said they’d like more choice in when they work and 43% wanted choice in where they work, meaning it appears majority of employees would be happy for home working to stick around. We therefore set out below a brief guide to handling flexible working requests. For a more detailed management guide please get in touch and we will happily send you a copy.

The statutory right to request flexible working applies to employees with over 26 weeks service. This applies to existing employees wishing to work compressed hours, annualised hours, reduced hours, job share, regularly from home or remotely, or any combination of these.  The employee must complete a flexible working request form/letter in writing.

Informal conversation: It makes sense to discuss the request initially by having an open and honest discussion to explore the feasibility. You can highlight any areas that you think may be difficult and the employee should consider these if they decide to progress with their request.

Stages In a Formal Flexible Working Request

  1.  Employee submits a flexible working request form – For a formal request, the employee needs to put their flexible working request in writing

2.   Hold a meeting to discuss the request – this provides both parties with the opportunity to discuss the requested working arrangements in depth and consider how feasible they are.

3. Consider the request – Managers have the duty to consider these requests in a fair and timely way. When looking at a request, you may wish to consider any contractual implications, health and safety, financial matters, practical issues, as well as reflecting on how performance will be managed and what impact it might have on the team.

4. You may refuse the request if you have a good business reason for doing so, a request can only be refused for one (or more) of the following business reasons:

  • the burden of additional costs.
  • detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand.
  • inability to re-organise work among existing employees.
  • inability to recruit additional employees.
  • detrimental impact on quality.
  • detrimental impact on performance.
  • insufficiency of work during the periods you propose to work.
  • planned structural changes to the workforce

5. Make a decision – the decision may be made at the meeting, or you may require additional information or need time to discuss the proposed working arrangement with other employees.

6. Allow for an appeal – if the request has been refused, an employee has the right to appeal the decision.Arrange a meeting with a senior manager who has not previously been involved in discussions about the request. The outcome of the appeal is final and must be confirmed as soon as possible and within 3 months of the initial request.

7. Confirming the arrangements – it is important to confirm any arrangements and expectations in writing (at the latest within 1 month of the changes taking effect) so that all parties are clear of the agreement.  Don’t forget to update and any necessary adjustments made to conditions such as holiday or pay.

8. Review – Once a flexible working request has been agreed it forms a permanent change to the employee’s contract, unless otherwise agreed. As the business environment and individual circumstances are continually changing, you may wish to discuss with the employee setting a review period, say after 6 or 12 months. Review dates must be agreed in advance with the employee.

Timescales: The process must be completed (including the appeal) within 3 months from the date that the application is received.

If the process looks like it might take longer than 3 months you MUST get written approval from the employee to extend the timeframe.

Finally, the employee will not have a statutory right to make another request for the next 12 months.