The 'Right to Request'
flexible work is established in UK law. It applies to
parents of children aged 17 or under, parents of children up to
18 with disabilities, and to carers of adult family members.
But the right to request is
just what it says. It's a right to ask for flexible work,
not a right to get it. So employees want to know how to
make a request, and how to frame the request in the best way to
get the result they want.
So this is out advice as to
how go about making a successful request.
Talk informally with your
manager and/or HR department first about your need for a
change of work style. You can see what flexible working
options are already practised in the organisation, and run
some ideas past them to gauge their response.
Do some research.
Make sure you know the company's policies on flexible
working, if they have any. And try to find out if
there are examples of your kind of work being done on a
flexible work basis in other companies. This will help
you to make a persuasive case if your manager is unsure or
If possible, get an
agreement without making a formal request under the
legislation. This is very common, and saves plunging
in to the rather bureaucratic and time-consuming process of
a formal request.
If you need to make a
formal request, this must be in writing - by email or
letter, or using an application form. One is available
from the Department for Business website -
You should state that you
are making the request under the statutory right to request
flexible working, and make sure the letter is dated, as this
will mark the beginning point of the process. The
employer is given 28 days to respond - either making a
decision or arranging a meeting to discuss the request.
You should state how you
qualify under the legislation; that is, state the nature of
your caring responsibilities. You do not have to
provide evidence of this caring relationship, or demonstrate
that someone else could not provide this care.
You should propose a new
You should put forward a
case for this new working pattern, showing how your work can
successfully be carried out in this way, and that it will
not harm the business, or how it may have business
You should also say if
you have made a previous application, and when. You
cannot make more than one application in 12 months.
There is a requirement in the
legislation for the individual to make a business case for the
change to the working pattern, which is perhaps the most
daunting part of the application process. This is where
your research can pay off, showing how other people or other
organisations are able to work successfully in the way you
Your employer may choose to
refuse the request, but must not do so unreasonably.
Incurring extra costs, putting extra burdens on colleagues or
reducing productivity may be reasons for refusal. Just saying
'No, I don't like this' or 'We don't do that' are not sufficient
The employer also needs to be
sure that he can demonstrate that his reasons are valid, in the
event that you take the case to a tribunal. So the grounds
for refusal must be reasonable and valid.
An employer may choose to
discuss your proposal, to be sure how it will work in practice.
It is possible they may suggest some kind of compromise, or
alternative pattern, or a trial period.
Unless you agree to a trial
period, the changes made will be a permanent arrangement.
If it all goes wrong ...
There are two main ways that may lead to an
escalation of the process - if the request is not handled
correctly by the employer (typically by delay), or if the
request is refused.
There are 3 potential ways of dealing with this:
Further negotiations in-house, perhaps
involving employee representatives/trade unions
Referral, if both sides agree, to the
ACAS flexible working arbitration process
An appeal to an employment tribunal.
It is the latter two options that put the
pressure on employers to ensure that their case for refusal is
reasonable, factually accurate and not arbitrary. In
principle, you cannot directly contest the business grounds
given, but you can contest the facts on which the
business case is based.
The process can get expensive once lawyers
become involved, so once should not enter into an appeal
lightly. Also, the sanctions against employers are quite
weak under this legislation.
Lawyers may well recommend also appealing on the
grounds of the anti-discrimination legislation, e.g. sex,
disability or age discrimination. The sanctions here are much
tougher, and levels of compensation potentially higher.
But hopefully your request can be resolved
satisfactorily before reaching this stage!.
* The guidance
presented here is provided as a general and educational outline.
It is not intended as legal advice, and should not be taken or
used as such, or be used as the basis for business or employment decisions,
for which readers should rely on their own sources of legal and