24 Oct 2017

Our ‘Top 5 Tips’ for...Dealing with a flexible working request

Our ‘Top 5 Tips’ for...Dealing with a flexible working request

The right to make a Flexible Working Request was first introduced in 2003, whereby certain employees could request to work flexibly if they had childcare responsibilities.

This right was then extended to certain employees with responsibilities for caring for adults. In June 2014, the right was further extended to all employees with 26 weeks continuous service. Requests can now be made for any reason such as to allow the employee more time to pursue hobbies or fitness.

A Flexible Working Request is a formal request, made in writing by an employee to change their working pattern – this could include arrangements such as a reduction in hours, a change in hours, compressed working, home working or ‘flexi-time’.

Despite the obvious benefits to employees however, take up on making Flexible Working Requests by employees without caring responsibilities has been relatively low and there are still many employers who have not yet had to deal with a Flexible Working Request under the extended right. 

With this in mind, we have pulled together our top 5 tips for dealing with a Flexible Working Request: 

Remember to act ‘reasonably’

An employer has a duty to deal with the request ‘reasonably’. That is likely to include considering each request carefully, weighing the advantages and disadvantages of the request, and discussing matters in detail with the employee. 

Be aware of the 3 month deadline 

The employer must notify the employee of the decision (including the outcome of any appeal) within 3 months of the date on which the employee’s request is made. This 3 month deadline can be extended but only with the consent of the employee before the 3 month initial period ends. 

Remember the request only has to be considered, not granted

An employer only has a duty to consider the Flexible Working Request – it does not have a duty to grant it. There will be occasions upon which a Flexible Working Request cannot be accommodated by an employer and will have to be declined. There are 8 specific grounds for refusing a request and an employer must point to at least one of these grounds when doing so. These include, the burden of additional costs and the detrimental impact on quality or performance.  

Consider a trial period

There is nothing in the legislation to prevent parties from agreeing a trial period for the new proposed working regime and doing so can be useful for both parties. This can demonstrate in practice whether the proposed change in working arrangements is workable or if it is simply unsustainable going forwards. From an employer’s perspective, even if the request is ultimately declined following the trial, it will help an employer demonstrate that they have acted in a reasonable manner in dealing with the request. 

Be wary of discrimination 

Be aware that some employees may have further statutory protection under the Equality Act which an employer will need to be of mindful of when considering a flexible working request. Typically, these requests will be made by employees seeking to vary their working hours in accordance with childcare commitments (possibly on the return from maternity leave), religious requirements (such as not wanting to work on the Sabbath, or being allowed time off to pray or attend worship) or who are seeking adjustments because they are disabled. Refusal of a request in these circumstances can give rise to claims of discrimination. Whilst this does not mean that all such requests must be granted, it is recommended that advice is taken prior to considering a refusal of such a request. 

Employment law experts

If you have received a Flexible Working Request and you would like some advice as to how to deal with it, please contact our Employment Team on 0141 225 5421 or click here.

Disclaimer: Please note that the content of this article is for information purposes only. It is not intended to be construed as legal advice and should not be treated as such. 

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