Under the new regime, do I have to hold a meeting with the employee?

Not necessarily, no. The Code of Practice states that you should discuss the request with the employee (unless you know without discussion that you will agree to it) so you should still talk to the employee about the request but there is no need to hold a face to face meeting. Guidance states that a discussion over the telephone or ‘by other means’ will suffice – this presumably means Skype or even FaceTime. If you do conduct the discussion over the phone, consider how the employee’s companion (if one is present) will interact with you, so you may need to use conference call technology.

Whose request should I prioritise? Someone who needs to start later to drop her child off at school, or someone who struggles to get in on time because of the traffic?

There is no call for you to judge whose request is more ‘important’ or ‘worthy’. Typically, you should deal with requests on a first come first served basis so the one you received first would be dealt with first. Your decision on that request will undoubtedly influence the next request – if you approve the first it may mean that the business circumstances have changed so that the next cannot be agreed. If requests are received simultaneously, you should consider each case on its merits looking at the business case and the possible impact of refusing a request. You may want to have a discussion with the employees to see if there is any room for adjustment or compromise before coming to a decision.

Do I have to hold an appeal meeting if the employee is not happy with my refusal?

There is no statutory right for an employee to appeal a flexible working refusal. However, the Code of Practice suggests that it is ‘best practice’ to allow this part of the process. Refusal to allow an appeal will not, of itself, render you liable to proceedings but a tribunal may take it into consideration in deciding, in a relevant case, whether you acted reasonably or not.

Need advice on the issue or further clarification? Then call the Peninsula Advice Service on 0844 892 2772.