News Article


How to handle Flexible Working requests

What does the new Flexible Working amendment mean for you and your business?

Here’s everything you need to know.

The Flexible Working (Amendment) Regulations 2023 Act has now come into effect and applies to any applications made from 6th April this year.

Under the new amendment, employees can request flexible working arrangements from the first day of their employment with you. They can make two requests within a 12-month period (previously they could only make a single request).

Employees are no longer required to discuss with their employer what impact their request may have, or how the effects can be managed.

Under previous rules, employers had 3 months to consider and respond to a request for flexible working; this has now been reduced to two months.

What does “flexible working” mean?

This can refer to your employee’s working hours or their pattern of work, for example, working part-time, flexitime, having compressed hours or adjusting their start or finish time. It can also apply to changing their working location, for example working from home.

What do you need to do?

Firstly, review your policies – and make sure your flexible working policy fits with the new law.

Make sure you have a process in place to review and respond to requests for flexible working – don’t wait for the first application to come in.

How should you respond to a request?

Firstly, ask your employee to make their request in writing, stating clearly what changes they wish to make.

Remember that while your employees can request flexible working patterns, you do not have to say yes.

Not all job roles are suitable for different working patterns – but it’s a good idea to approach all requests from the point of view of “how can we make this work” rather than “we don’t want to do this.”

What are the reasons for turning down a request?

There are eight valid reasons for turning down a request:

  • The cost to your business would be too high
  • Work cannot be reorganised among your other staff
  • You cannot recruit more staff
  • Quality will be negatively affected
  • Your business’s ability to meet customer demand will be negatively affected
  • Performance will be negatively affected
  • There is not enough work for your employee to do at the time(s) they’ve requested
  • There are planned changes to the business, and you believe the request will not fit with these plans

Look for a compromise.

If you’re not able to accept your employee’s request as it is, look for ways to compromise:

  • Could you agree to part of the request, for example allowing them to work from home two days a week instead of three?
  • Could you agree to a short-term change, rather than permanently?

What if you can’t agree to a flexible working request?

All decisions must be made fairly and using facts rather than personal opinion.

If you really can’t find a way to make it work, talk to your employee and explain the situation.

You want your employees to feel happy and valued in their work. So even if you can’t accommodate their request, it’s important that they feel heard and understood.

Bear this in mind with any future hires.

It’s important to communicate your flexible working policy, and the level of flexibility you can reasonably accommodate, when you’re hiring new employees – otherwise you could see your staff turnover rocket. If you’re concerned about how this may affect your business, or worried about how to put it into practice, get in touch for an informal chat about how we could help you.