How to Deal with an Employee’s Flexible Working Request

Meeting

A discussion should take place between the employee and the employer to discuss the flexible working request as soon as possible after the date on which the request has been made. (It would be prudent to keep a written record of this meeting.)

The meeting should provide an opportunity for the employer and the employee to examine the flexible working arrangement requested by the employee and discuss how the employer may accommodate the arrangement. Also, other flexible working arrangements may be examined if it is likely that the employer cannot accommodate the flexible working arrangement requested by the employee.Flexible Working

The time and place of a meeting must be convenient to the employer and the employee.

However, an employer is not required to hold such a meeting if it agrees to the flexible working arrangement (or the contractual variation) requested by the employee and notifies the employee accordingly. The notice must specify the flexible working arrangement (or the contractual variation) agreed to and the date when the flexible working arrangement (or the contractual variation) will begin.

Employer’s decision after the meeting

The employer’s decision on the employee’s flexible working request must be given to that employee within three months of the employee’s application to work flexibly. The employer’s decision must be given in writing, and dated.

The employer and employee may agree to extend the time limit because, for example, the employer requires more time to examine the requested flexible working arrangement.

However, the agreement must be recorded in writing by the employer, be dated, specify what time limit the extension relates to, specify the date on which the extension is to end and be sent to the employee.

If the employer agrees with the employee’s flexible working request, the employer must also specify the flexible working arrangement (or the contractual variation) agreed to and date that the arrangement (or the contractual variation) will begin.

For this purpose, the employer may use the model form FW(B): Flexible Working Application Acceptance Form provided on the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills’ (BIS) website.

If the employer refuses the employee’s flexible working request, the employer must inform the employee of the refusal and should state the grounds for that refusal and provide a sufficient explanation as to why those grounds for refusal apply in relation to the request.

Please note that an employer can only refuse a flexible working request on one or more of the grounds listed in Employer’s Duties in Relation to an Employee’s Flexible Working Request.

Where the employer refuses the employee’s flexible working request, the employer’s decision should also inform the individual of his or her right to appeal.

For this purpose, the employer may use model form FW(C): Flexible Working Application Rejection Form, which can be downloaded from the Business Link.

The appeal meeting

An appeal meeting should take place between the employee and the employer to discuss the appeal and any decision regarding the appeal should be communicated to the employee within three months of the original request to work flexibly. (It would be prudent to keep a written record of this meeting.)

Right to be accompanied at the meeting and the appeal meeting

An employee does not have a legal right to be accompanied at a meeting or an appeal meeting but the employer should allow this as a matter of good practice. The person accompanying the employee at the meeting or an appeal meeting must be chosen by that employee. Also, that person can provide advice to the employee during a meeting or an appeal meeting and address the meeting or the appeal meeting but cannot answer questions on behalf of the employee.

A person who can accompany an employee at a meeting or an appeal meeting concerning a flexible working request is restricted to a worker who is employed by the same employer as the employee. Unlike a worker’s right to be accompanied at a disciplinary or grievance hearing, this restriction means that a trade union official who is not employed by the employer will have no statutory right to accompany an employee at a meeting or an appeal meeting concerning a flexible working request.

A person who accompanies an employee at a meeting or an appeal meeting concerning a flexible working request will have the right to paid time off when they do so.

Postponement of the meeting or the appeal meeting

If the employee’s companion is not available at the time of the meeting or the appeal meeting, the employee can select an alternative time that is convenient for the employer, the employee and the employee’s companion and falls before the end of a seven-day period beginning with the first day after the day originally proposed for the meeting or the appeal meeting.

Withdrawal of flexible working request

An employer will treat an employee’s flexible working request as withdrawn where that employee has:

  • notified to the employer orally or in writing that they are withdrawing that request
  • without reasonable cause, they failed to attend a meeting or an appeal meeting concerning their flexible working request more than once (ie fails to attend two meetings).

The employer must confirm the withdrawal of the flexible working request to the employee in writing unless the employee has provided the employer with a written notice of the withdrawal under point (a), above.

More information available on www.gov.uk

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