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Employment Law for Businesses

Flexible Working Requests

Susie Al-Qassab
Susie Al‑Qassab
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Natalie Wellock
Ellen Clabburn
Ellen Clabburn

All employees who have worked for their employer for at least 26 weeks have the legal right to request flexible working.

There are legal requirements around how and when to consider and provide a response. There are also limitations around the circumstances in which a request can be refused and so it is important to seek advice upon receipt of such a request.

We pride ourselves on being a values driven team of advisors and so our aim is to help you make ethical choices, which benefit your business. We can also guide you through the benefits to flexible working more broadly, including how it may benefit staff retention, morale and productivity.

What are flexible working requests?

An employee may want to request flexibility because of childcare responsibilities, having to care for adult dependants or simply to engineer a better work-life balance. Whatever the reason for the request, it is important that you understand the obligations that are placed on your business in responding to such a request.


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Why choose Hodge Jones & Allen solicitors?

Our employment law specialists understand the importance of flexible working and how this can impact a business, both from a legal perspective and a commercial one. We act for individuals and businesses in litigation and so we have many years’ experience of seeing the consequences and risks of a business getting it wrong.

The best way to manage flexible working requests is by having a flexible working policy. This will ensure that both you and your staff have a clear understanding of their rights and obligations. We can work with you to draft such a policy, ensuring that it is tailored to the needs of your business. We can also check existing policies to ascertain whether they are appropriate and comply with current legislation.

We can assist you in dealing with an employee’s flexible working request, help you to understand what amounts to a reasonable refusal and explain how to meet your obligations and protect your business from the threat of legal disputes. We also offer assistance with understanding and responding to competing requests for flexible working. If business need means you can only grant one request, we can help you to navigate this and to put in place a fair system for determining which request to grant.

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How can I get help?

Contact our team to explain your situation. They will be able to assess your case and allocate it to the most appropriate lawyer for your circumstances, who will be able to consider the evidence, discuss next steps and advise you on the response, as well as the risks associated with any claim brought against your business.

Our lawyers will be able to discuss the different funding options available. For example, we can offer fixed fees for drafting policies or procedures. In open-ended situations (such as handling a grievance or litigation), we offer competitive hourly rates. We will ensure that you are provided with clear information on costs throughout.

We will ensure that you are equipped with the options and risks to enable you to remain in control of the decision that you want to take for your business.


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What outcomes can you expect?

Spending the time and money on a well-drafted flexible working policy can help to ensure that you and your employees are aware of their rights and your obligations. We will ensure that your business is able to minimise the risk of costly and damaging litigation and we can assist you with the messaging and management of the expectations of your staff.

With our guidance from the outset, we can help you to ensure that flexible working requests are handled properly and fairly, resulting in the right outcome for the interests of your business. It should be that they become something to celebrate, rather than something to fear.

Meet some of our Employment team:

Susie Al-Qassab

Susie Al-Qassab

Homa Wilson

Homa Wilson

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Featured case

Successfully guided company through flexible working request

We supported a small business through a flexible working request made by one of their key members of staff. At first, they were cautious about the way in which it might affect the business, but they saw the commercial benefit to granting the request which included the retention of the member of staff.

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or request a call back.
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Frequently asked questions

Can I refuse a flexible working request from one of my employees?

Whilst you can refuse a request for flexible working, the reason for the refusal must be genuine otherwise an employee may be able to make a claim to an Employment Tribunal.

A genuine reason may be if the arrangement would have a detrimental impact on performance or if your business is unable to recruit additional staff to adequately support your business. Each case however would be assessed on its merits and any request should be considered very carefully. If the request is refused, you should ensure you can justify your reasons.

An employee wants to appeal our refusal to grant their request. What should we do?

Employees do not have a statutory right to appeal, but it is good practice to allow an appeal, as this may protect your business if a legal claim arises. You may wish to include the right to appeal in your flexible working policy.

How long do we have to consider a flexible working request?

If the employee has followed the correct statutory procedure for making a request, you must make a decision within three months (unless otherwise agreed between you).

We’re considering granting a flexible working request, but don’t know how it will affect the business. Can we undertake a trial period?

Yes, in certain circumstances, it is good practice to implement the changes for a fixed trial period, rather than flat-out refusing a request. This will allow both you and the employee to determine how these changes will affect you and whether they are suitable.

It may also help you to consider how to resolve any underlying issues with the new arrangement. It is important that you record the agreement regarding the trial period in writing, review the arrangement before the trial period ends and notify the employee of the outcome.

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