Applying for flexible working
Employees can apply for flexible working if they’ve worked continuously for the same employer for the last 26 weeks. It’s known as ‘making a statutory application.’
The basic steps are:
- The employee writes to the employer.
- The employer considers the request and makes a decision within 3 months – or longer if agreed with the employee.
- If the employer agrees to the request, they must change the terms and conditions in the employee’s contract.
- If the employer disagrees, they must write to the employee giving the business reasons for the refusal. The employee may be able to complain to an Employment Tribunal.
Employees can only make one application for flexible working a year
Writing to the employer
An employee should email or write a letter to their employer.
Employers may ask employees to use a standard form to make an application.
What the email or letter must include
The application must include:
- the date
- a statement that this is a statutory request
- details of how the employee wants to work flexibly and when they want to start
- an explanation of how they think flexible working might affect the business and how this could be dealt with, eg if they’re not at work on certain days
- a statement saying if and when they’ve made a previous application
Withdrawing an application
Employees should tell their employer in writing if they want to withdraw their application.
The employer can treat an application as withdrawn if the employee misses 2 meetings to discuss an application or appeal without good reason, eg sickness.
The employer must tell the employee they are treating the request as withdrawn.
After the application
Employers must consider flexible working requests in a ‘reasonable manner’.
They should usually make a decision within 3 months of the request (or longer if agreed with the employee).
Agreeing the application
The employer should write to the employee with:
- a statement of the agreed changes
- a start date for flexible working
They should also change the employees contract to include the new terms and conditions.
This should be done as soon as possible but no later than 28 days after the request was approved.
Rejecting an application
The employer must tell the employee that they’ve rejected the application.
Reasons for rejecting
Employers can reject an application for any of the following reasons:
- extra costs that will damage the business
- the work can’t be reorganised among other staff
- people can’t be recruited to do the work
- flexible working will affect quality and performance
- the business won’t be able to meet customer demand
- there’s a lack of work to do during the proposed working times
- the business is planning changes to the workforce
Employees no longer have a statutory right to an appeal.
But offering an appeals process helps to demonstrate that the employer is handling requests in a reasonable manner.
How to appeal
The employee must follow the company’s procedures for appealing.
The employee or employer should follow the company’s procedures for solving a workplace dispute if a rejected application causes problems.
Going to an employment tribunal
Employees can complain to an Employment Tribunal if the employer:
- didn’t handle the request in a reasonable manner
- wrongly treated the employee’s application as withdrawn
- dismissed or treated an employee poorly because of their flexible working request, eg refused a promotion or pay rise
- rejected an application based on incorrect facts
Employees can’t complain to a tribunal just because their flexible working request was rejected.
An employee should complain to the tribunal within 3 months of:
- hearing their employer’s decision
- hearing their request was treated as withdrawn
- the date the employer should have responded to their request (but failed to do so)
If an employer or employee is unsure of their rights, they should get legal advice.