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Right to request Flexible Working – the new rules explained


The Flexible Working Regulations 2014 came into force on June 30, 2014 extending the right to make a request for flexible working to any employee who has been employed for 26 weeks.

Previously, this right was only available for to parents of children under 17, or 18 if disabled, and certain carers.

The basic right to request is unchanged. Employees can make up to one written request every year, the employer needs to deal with it within three months, and can refuse on any of nine (very wide) business grounds.

These business reasons are set out in the legislation and are:

  • The burden of any additional costs is unacceptable to the organisation
  • The inability to reorganise work among existing staff
  • Inability to recruit additional staff
  • The employer considers the change will have a detrimental impact on quality
  • The employer considers the change would have a detrimental effect on the business ability to meet customers demand
  • Detrimental impact of performance
  • There is insufficient work during the periods the employee proposes to work
  • Planned structural changes, for example, where the employer intends to reorganise or change the business and considers the flexible working changes may not fit with these plans
  • Avoid unlawful discrimination

Requests to work flexibly must be considered objectively and the statutory code of practice requires employers to do this.

A tribunal cannot normally investigate the rights and wrongs of a refusal for flexible working, only whether the procedure has been properly followed. Maximum compensation for a failure to comply is eight weeks’ pay (currently capped at £464 per week).

Employers should look to introduce or update their policies for handling requests to work flexibly as a matter of urgency and communicate the updated policy clearly to all employees.

This will help to ensure consistency in handling requests and reduce the risk of discrimination claims arising.

As always, we recommend you seek specialist legal advice if you are at all unsure about how the new rules will impact your business.

If you require more information on this, or any other employment law matter, please contact the Employment team on 01772 258321.

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