Hints and Tips on Handling a Flexible Working Request
How to handle a flexible working request is a common HR query.
Here’s a summary of a “good practice” process which ensures the Employer follows good legal practice and promotes a supportive working environment. It also complies with the minimum requirements under the statutory flexible working scheme.
Not all employees are eligible to make a formal flexible working request. To qualify, an employee must have worked for the same employer for at least 26 weeks.
Limit on Requests:
Employees can only make one formal request in any 12-month period.
Once a written request is received, promptly acknowledge it. This shows professionalism and demonstrates to the employee that their request is being taken seriously.
Meet with the Employee:
It’s good practice to arrange a meeting to discuss the request. This gives both parties the chance to explore the proposal, discuss potential problems, and consider possible solutions.
Consider the Request Fairly:
You should consider the request in a ‘reasonable manner’. This means assessing the advantages and disadvantages, looking into whether the changes might be accommodated, and discussing any adverse business impact with the employee.
Grounds for Refusal:
UK Employment Law specifies several grounds on which an employer can refuse a flexible working request. These include:
- The burden of additional costs.
- Detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand.
- Inability to reorganize 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 changes to the business.
- Responding to the Request:
You must respond to the request within three months (or longer if agreed with the employee).
The response should either:
- Approve the request and specify the agreed changes and their start date.
- Refuse the request, providing one or more of the grounds for refusal listed above. It’s good practice to also provide an explanation for the decision.
Although there’s no statutory right to an appeal, offering one is considered good practice. An appeal provides an opportunity to revisit the decision and correct any potential oversights or misunderstandings.
Consider offering a trial period for the new working pattern. This can help both the employer and the employee assess whether the flexible working arrangement is sustainable.
t’s important to keep a written record of all flexible working requests, including meetings, decisions, and any appeals. This can help protect the business in case of any disputes.
Review and Adapt:
Even once a flexible working request has been implemented, it’s beneficial to review the arrangement periodically to ensure that it’s still meeting both the business and the employee’s needs.