04/09/14 - How flexible do you need to be?

From 30th June 2014 all employees are now entitled to request flexible working under the Employment Rights Act 1996. Prior to June 2014 the right applied only to the parents of children under seventeen or eighteen, provided the employee cared for a disabled child or had caring responsibilities for an adult dependant.

Flexibility means not just the hours or days of work, but also the type of work an employee is carrying out.  There was concern from various business leaders about the impact that this change would have and a suggestion of the floodgates opening.  Whilst we have yet to see any major increase in the number of requests, it is important that you know the procedure that must be followed when you receive a request.

The first step to preparing for an influx in requests is to ensure an up to date policy for dealing with flexible working requests.  We have drafted a standard Flexible Working Policy that could be inserted into your staff handbook. 


  • A request can only be made in writing, provided the employee has worked for you for at least twenty six weeks. Only one request can be made every twelve months by each employee.
  • meet with the employee without delay in order to discuss the request.
  • Confirm your decision in writing, reminding the employee of their right of appeal

Am I forced to accept a flexible working request?

No – your obligation is to consider the request.  There are a number of reasons for rejecting such a request, which are laid out in the legislation:

  • The burden of additional costs
  • Detrimental effect on the ability to meet customer demand
  • Inability to re-organise work among existing staff
  • Inability to recruit additional staff
  • Detrimental impact on quality
  • Detrimental impact on performance
  • Insufficiency of work during the periods the employee proposes to work
  • Planned structural changes, and
  • Such other grounds as the Secretary of State may specify by regulations.

Despite the possibility to refuse a request for flexible working, this should be handled with caution. A refusal can be detrimental to an employment relationship and care should be taken to ensure that mutual trust and confidence in the employment relationship is not compromised.

Flexible working can be a tool for improving employer-employee relationships as well, so you should consider each request with an open mind.  However, a balance must be struck:  particularly to ensure that granting a request does not open the floodgates to many more. The point of balance can be a difficult thing to achieve and must be tailored to suit individual business needs. Therefore specialist advice should be sought.

If you believe your business is, or may become affected by this please do not hesitate to contact Gilson Gray where we will help you take preventative measures, and ensure your  flexible working policies and procedures are up to date and in line with current legislation.

Robert Morrison, Summer Placement Student


For More Information Contact:
Graham Millar
Mobile: 07841920102
Direct Dial: 0141 530 2023


The information and opinions contained in this blog are for information only. They are not intended to constitute advice and should not be relied upon or considered as a replacement for advice. Before acting on any of the information contained in this blog, please seek specific advice from Gilson Gray.




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