A change in the law regarding the eligibility requirements for flexible working means that all staff, regardless of their circumstances, can make a statutory request for flexible working so long as they have a minimum of 26 weeks service at the time of making the request. This change means that a request from a member of staff to have every Friday afternoon off to go to the pub needs to be considered alongside requests due to childcare demands.

All flexible working requests should be taken seriously especially where these are statutory requests. Employees are only entitled to make one statutory request in a 12 month period, though any requests over this can be considered dependent on the company’s approach to this. A failure to take a statutory request seriously can result in a number of claims against the business, including the potential for a claim of constructive dismissal where an employee resigns due to a failure to consider the request altogether.

Requests should be dealt with in a reasonable manner and the whole process should be completed within three months of receiving the request. Though the statutory process and timelines have been removed, if the company still implements a flexible working policy this should be followed.

Employees having the right to request flexible working does not mean that the request will automatically be approved. Each request should be assessed on its merits and a discussion between employer and employee will often be helpful to determine if the request can be approved or if any alternative arrangements can be agreed to. Flexible working requests can only be refused for one of the specified business reasons allowing you to do so including: the burden of additional costs; being unable to reorganise work among existing staff or the result of approving the request causing a negative impact on quality, performance or ability to meet customer demand.

Where the request is refused there is no specific right to appeal this decision, unless contained within the contract, however, whether an appeal has been offered will be considered when deciding if the refusal was reasonable. Refusing the request without relying on one of the accepted reasons will be unfair and can result in a tribunal claim. If successful, the tribunal will order the request to be reconsidered and can make a monetary award. Additionally, any refusals or blanket bans on flexible working should take care to avoid being discriminatory and unfavourably impacting one group of employees over another.

If you need any clarification on this issue then contact the Peninsula Advice Service on 0844 892 2772.