Do Your Employees Have a Right to Request Flexible Working?

Clare Parkinson


17 Oct 2019


Flexible working is a scheme that employees want more and more. If done correctly it can provide a massive boost to employee morale and actually increase productivity.

However, for some roles, flexible working simply isn’t an option.

So where do you draw the line? Can anyone request flexible working? And, if they do, what are your responsibilities as an employer?

We’ll answer all these questions and more, but first, let’s start with the basics


What is flexible working?

It’s not just letting employees come and go as they please. The term actually refers to any type of work pattern that differs from your existing one.

Some of the most common types of flexible working include:

With so many different ones, it’s often difficult to retain all the information you need. To avoid confusion, we’ll skip part-time working and shift work, as these are particularly common work patterns.

Instead, we’ll focus on compressed hours, flexitime, and home working.


Flexible working arrangements

Compressed hours

This arrangement allows employees to work their contracted hours over a fewer number of days. So, if an employee normally works 30 hours a week over four days, they could now work three 10 hour days instead.

Or, they could choose to work five 6 hour days.

So long as they fulfil their contractual hours, they can split them however they like.


This arrangement establishes core working hours and flexible working hours. So, for example, 10:00-16:00 would be core working hours, then you could make flexible working hours 7:00-10:00 and 16:00-19:00.

What this means is that an employee has to work between 10am and 4pm, but may arrive at any time between 7am-10am and leave any time between 4pm-7pm.

You’d also agree on a contractual total number of hours to work, and count these over a 4 week accounting period or quarterly.

So, if your employees work 9-5, they’d still have to do their 8 hours, they’d just get to choose when to work them.


Benefits of flexible working

The first and most obvious benefit is that it will help you retain key talent and recruit new talent. Flexible working reduces fatigue and stress, and allow employees to work to their strengths. All of this contributes to a boost in productivity.

In addition to employee benefits, there’s also a financial incentive. Whichever arrangement you choose, it’s likely to significantly reduce employee absenteeism, tardiness and sick leave.

Greater retention also means less money spent trying to recruit new talent. And, flexible working arrangement are generally inexpensive and quick to implement.


Disadvantages of flexible working

Usually, you’ll find that the disadvantages come from the type of employee. If they’re likely to take advantage of company time, they’ll do so even more with a flexible working arrangement.

Communication can suffer, their availability might become unclear, and without supervision, they might not work effectively or efficiently. With the right employee, these problems shouldn’t be an issue.


Do employees have the right to request flexible working?

Legally, employees can only make a flexible working request after 26-week service. However, you may allow employees to do so earlier.

It doesn’t matter which department the employee is in, anyone can make a request, and you legally have to consider it. You don’t—legally—have to grant the request.

To make a request, the employee must:

  • Make the request in writing
  • State when they made their last request (if applicable)
  • What changes they’re seeking
  • If they’re making their request in relation to the Equality Act 2010—If, for example, they require reasonable adjustments as a result of a disability

An employee can only make one request in a period of 12 months. On your part, you must have a sound business reason for rejecting the request, and you should decide and respond to the request within 3 months.


Flexible working policy

If you want to implement a flexible approach to work, you should do so in writing, and detail the following:

  • What type of arrangement you’re putting in place
  • Provisions for who can request such an arrangement (those who’ve been with the company for 26 weeks or more)
  • Eligibility of roles/departments
  • How to make an application
  • The criteria you’ll consider when deciding whether to approve a request
  • Terms and conditions of employment
  • Cover for absence
  • Trial periods (if applicable)
  • Appeal procedure upon rejection of request

Flexible working legislation changes

There are no major changes to flexible working legislation or flexible working rights currently in the works.

The right to request flexible working only became law in recent years. The legislation states that an employer can only reject a request for one of the following reasons:

  • Additional costs.
  • An effect on the ability to meet customer demand.
  • Inability to reorganise work among existing staff.
  • Inability to recruit new staff.
  • A detrimental impact on quality.
  • A detrimental impact on performance.
  • Insufficiency of work during the period of work proposed by the employee.
  • Planned structural changes.

Again, you should consider all requests, decide, and respond within three months of the initial request. You can agree on extensions with the employee if necessary.


Expert support

Hopefully, we’ve answered all of your questions regarding flexible working and their requests. However, if you are still unsure, speak to a Croner expert today on 0808 145 3380.

About the Author

Clare Parkinson has over 20 years’ experience in the Croner Reward business. As Business Manager, Clare leads a team of Reward Consultants who specialise in the delivery of pay and grading related advice, including tailored pay benchmarking and gender pay reports.

Over the years, Clare has contributed to various industry publications on topics such as gender pay, executive remuneration and market pay trends.

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