Last year, many businesses and organisations had to adjust their working environments and even invest in remote working to be able to operate throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. The ability to work flexibly became very important for both employers and employees.

Now those restrictions are set to relax, many employers will be encouraging their employees to return to the office. It is likely that organisations will receive an influx of requests to work flexibly from employees.

This blog covers the process of requesting flexible working and employer’s obligations.

Who is entitled to make a flexible working request?

After 26 weeks of employment, every employee has the statutory right to make a flexible working request. Employees can only make one formal flexible working request in a 12-month period.

What needs to be included in a flexible working request?

The flexible working request must be in writing and include the following information:

  • Application date
  • The change to working conditions the employee is looking for
  • When the employee would like the changes to come into effect
  • List the ways, the employee thinks this change will affect the organisation and how the impact could be dealt with

Employers should make sure their employees are aware of what needs to be included in the flexible working request, what format it needs to be in and to who they should submit it.

What happens next?

Once an employer receives a written flexible working request it has to be reviewed. If the employer has any questions or concerns, they should set up a meeting with the employee as soon as possible to discuss the request. However, if the employer intends to approve the request then the meeting is not obligatory.

The employee should be allowed to attend the meeting accompanied by a work colleague and this should be explained to the employee ahead of time. Employers should have the meeting in a private setting, so it will not be overheard. The discussion can help the employer understand what the employee is looking for and how that could work for the organisation.

Reviewing the request

All flexible working requests need to be carefully considered. The employer should compare the benefits and drawbacks of implementing the change.

Once the employer has made the decision, it needs to inform the employee as soon as possible in writing. Employers must notify the employee of the decision (including the outcome of any appeal), with the “decision period” which is three months beginning with the date the employee made the request. If an employer requires a longer period to make its decision, it should agree on an extension with the employee.

Accepting the request

If the employer accepts the request or agrees to it with modifications, they should discuss the same with the employee and agree on the details making sure everyone is clear on when the changes will be implemented and how.  

Declining the request

The employer can only reject the flexible working request for one of the following reasons:

  • The burden of additional costs
  • An inability to reorganise work amongst existing staff
  • An inability to recruit additional staff
  • A detrimental impact on the quality
  • A detrimental impact on performance
  • A detrimental effect on the ability to meet customer demand
  • Insufficient work for the periods the employee proposes to work
  • A planned structural change to the business

If the employer rejects the request, then it is advisable that the employee be afforded a right to appeal the decision. Additionally, it might be beneficial for both parties to discuss the decision as it may reveal more information or an omission in following a reasonable procedure when considering the request.

For more information please call 0161 930 5151.

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