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Flexible working

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Flexible working simply means working non-standard hours. It can allow employees to have a better work-life balance and employers to retain valuable staff. There is also a need to manage flexible working, so that the operational needs of your charity can still be met.

The legal right

All employees who have 26 weeks’ service or more have the legal right to request flexible working via a ‘statutory application’. The ‘right to request’ does not mean that there is a right to have flexible working, but the employer does need to consider it.

Key points:

  • Requests should be in writing, stating the date of the request and whether any previous application has been made, plus the date of that application.
  • Requests and appeals must be considered and decided upon within three months of the receipt of the request.
  • Employers must have a sound business reason (see below) for rejecting any request.
  • Employees can only make one request in any 12-month period.

Dealing with a flexible working request

Having received the written request, you should meet with the employee to discuss it and you should allow the employee to be accompanied by a work colleague if they wish.

Once you have considered the request you should inform the employee of the decision as soon as possible. You are advised to do this in writing.

If you accept the request, or accept it with modifications, you should discuss with the employee how and when the changes might best be implemented.

If you are considering turning down the flexible working request, it must be on one of the eight business reasons outlined in the law:

  • The burden of additional costs
  • An inability to reorganise work amongst existing staff
  • An inability to recruit additional staff
  • A detrimental impact on quality
  • A detrimental impact on performance
  • Detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand
  • Insufficient work for the periods the employee proposes to work
  • A planned structural change to your business

If you reject the request, you should allow the employee to appeal the decision.

Matters to consider

If you are not sure whether the requested flexible working will work in practice, one option is to agree it for a temporary period.

You should not prioritise flexible working requests based on the merit of the request from your own point of view. For example, it would not be appropriate to grant a woman flexible working to care for her children, but reject such a request for a man, based on your own views about childcare. Such a step may also be unlawful discrimination.

If you have agreed to a flexible working request from one employee, you are not obliged to agree to a similar request from another employee. Requests should be considered in the order they are received. For example, having considered and approved the first request, when considering a later request, a change in business context may result in a different outcome.

However, if flexible working is being requested as a reasonable adjustment for a disabled employee, there are additional considerations, as explained in the example from Acas below:

Gary has been recently diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, a symptom of which is severe fatigue especially in the mornings. He explains this to his employer, who enables Gary to work flexibly with a later start time than his colleagues. This is a reasonable adjustment under the Equality Act 2010 where employers have a duty to make reasonable adjustments.

For more information on unlawful discrimination read our guidance on the Equality Act: your legal duties.

Further information

Page last edited Apr 06, 2022

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