New right to request flexible working

By staff writers
June 30, 2014

From today (30 June), every employee has the statutory right to request flexible working after 26 weeks employment service. Previously the right only applied to parents of children under the age of 17 (or 18 if the child is disabled) and to some carers.

Although employees with less than 26 weeks service do not have a statutory right to request flexible working, some employers may allow all staff to make a request.

To make a request for flexible working employees must:

- Make their request in writing, state the date the request is made, the change to working conditions they are seeking, and the date they would like the change to take effect
- State whether they have made a previous application for flexible work and the date of that application
- What change to working conditions they are seeking and how they think this may affect the business e.g. cost saving to the business
- if they are making their request in relation to the Equality Act 2010, for example, as a reasonable adjustment for a disabled employee

The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) says employers should considered requests "in a reasonable manner" and can only refuse them if there is are business reasons for doing so This must be one of the following:

- the burden of additional costs
- an inability to reorganise work amongst existing staff
- an inability to recruit additional staff
- a detrimental impact on quality
- a detrimental impact on performance
- a detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand
- insufficient work for the periods the employee proposes to work
- planned structural changes to the business

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) has welcomed the change but has expressed the concern that that it is still too easy for employers to refuse requests

The TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “It’s not just parents and carers who can benefit from flexible working. This sensible and modern approach to work is something that can improve the lives of everyone.

“Now, thanks to this long overdue change in the law, employees of all ages will be able to ask their boss to alter the way they work, regardless of whether they have dependents or caring responsibilities.

“If they have an employer who gets why flexible working makes sense, workers who want to take time out to train, volunteer in a local community project, or simply avoid travelling at rush hour will now be able to transform their lives.

“But those with old-fashioned bosses who expect all staff to stick to the same rigid hours day in day out and always be in the office won’t be so lucky. Employers will still find it all too easy to block any requests for greater flexibility.

“Unfortunately the right to request is only the right to ask nicely. There is nothing to stop employers saying no. Of course not everyone in every company or organisation is able to work flexibly – some requests will always need to be turned down. But without the right to challenge employers, many workers will continue to lose out.”

* The ACAS guide to the right to request flexible working:

* The ACAS code of practice on handling requests for flexible working:


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