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The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the way we work and live, with many employees working from home and enjoying the benefits this brings. Employers will likely see an increase in flexible working requests as we begin to return to normality in the workplace. If you’re requesting flexible working, in this article, we highlight what the current law is and what you should expect from your employer.

The current law

Employees with 26 weeks’ continuous service are entitled to request flexible working, regardless of whether they work full-time or part-time. However, if an employee has already made a flexible working request, they have no legal right make another request within the next 12 months although employers may choose to consider additional requests at their discretion.

Employees can request multiple changes to their terms of employment, including the hours they work, the days they are required to work or the place they are required to work.

Employers must deal with requests in a “reasonable manner”, notify the employee of its decision within three months of the request, and only refuse the request for one or more of the following grounds:

  • the burden of additional costs
  • detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand
  • inability to reorganise 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.

Employers should consider each flexible working request on its own merit, meaning that employers can approve one request and decline another. However, employers must act reasonably, fairly and in accordance with equality law when making a decision.


The future

It has been reported that a public consultation is set to be launched later this year on how the flexible approach to office life could be extended so that current working patterns, such as homeworking, can be maintained. The review is likely to explore ways to strengthen the existing legal right to request flexible working which could curtail the freedom employers currently have to refuse a flexible working request.

The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.