Considering a request

How to respond to an employee’s request for flexible working.

Consider the request carefully and fairly. Employers must consider all requests for flexible working arrangements in a fair way and in good faith. There are only a few business related grounds to say no to a request and employers shouldn’t try to assess whether one person’s need for flexible working arrangements is greater than another’s.

Acknowledging a request

It’s important to acknowledge that you have received the request. There is an acknowledgement slip included on the bottom of Form A: Request Form for flexible working arrangements [DOC 52KB]. You can use this to confirm the date you received the request. This can be really important if there has been a delay in the request reaching you.

Information missing

If an application has information missing let the employee know what they’ve missed and ask them to re-send the request when complete. You should also let them know that you do not need to reply to their request until you have received the necessary information.

One month to deal with a request

You must deal with a request as soon as possible, but no later than one month after you receive it. The one month time limit for dealing with a request should provide plenty of time for you to weigh up the impact on your business and make a decision. You must respond in writing. See the checklist for responding to a request for flexible working arrangements for more information on what to consider in your response.

Meet to discuss

The best way for both parties to understand each other’s position and find a solution that meets all their needs is to discuss the request face-to-face. This is a chance to talk about the requested working arrangement in depth, and consider how these could fit with the business, employee, employer and other workers. It will help if both you and the employee are prepared to be flexible.

If the requested working arrangement can’t be agreed to, the discussion may help identify alternatives or perhaps a flexible working arrangements trial.

How to get the most from a meeting

If you are an employee: If you are an employer:
  • make a list of the issues you want to discuss at the meeting
  • be prepared to expand on any points within your request
  • prepare to be flexible. Your employer may ask if there are any other working arrangements you would be willing to consider or if you would consider another start date or a trial
  • familiarise yourself with the different types of flexible working arrangements available.
  • make a list or draft an agenda of the issues you want to discuss at the meeting, eg if you are already aware that the request can be granted, you may want to discuss a suitable start date before formally accepting the request
  • prepare to be flexible. Consider whether there are any other working arrangements you would be willing to consider or if you would consider another start date or a trial
  • let your employee know if you have asked another party to join the meeting
  • discuss with your staff if they would want to cover any extra hours that may be created as a result of granting the request
  • familiarise yourself with the different types of flexible working arrangements available
  • if it would be helpful to involve external expertise, be open to this.

Flexible working arrangements trial

A flexible working arrangements trial can provide an opportunity to test a particular arrangement to see if it works out well for all parties.

For example, your employee may not be sure about making a permanent change to their employment agreement. At the same time, you may be concerned about how the proposed working arrangement may affect other staff or business operations.

A flexible working arrangements trial (eg for 12 weeks) will give both you and the employee a chance to find out whether the proposed arrangement will really work out well in practice.

You could have an informal or formal trial to test the proposed changes:

You can informally agree to a flexible working arrangements trial before your employee submits any formal request.

After this informal flexible working arrangements trial, you and your employee may decide that a permanent change is not the best option or it may help to identify a workable approach. This option also allows your employee to make a formal request at a later date.

A formal request to change the working arrangements is made and you have agreed an extension of time for you make your final decision. The flexible working arrangements trial then takes place before a final agreement is confirmed. If the trial works well then the new working arrangement can then be confirmed by a formal agreement.

Put it in writing

No matter how informal an arrangement is, it is always a good idea to put it in writing.

Recording what you have agreed about the flexible working arrangements trial in writing means that both you and your employee can be clear about start and end dates. It will also confirm any other important considerations such as a reduction in the employee’s wages or salary.

A permanent change might not be the best approach

A permanent change to an employment agreement may not always be the best option.

There are potentially two alternative options available: informal and time-limited.

This involves an informal agreement between you and your employee to flexible working for a limited period, or a provision to make flexible work available as and when the need comes up.

Alternatively, you and your employee might agree to a change for a set time, after which you would go back to the original arrangement.

Responding to a request checklist

Things to check when responding to a request for flexible working arrangements.

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