Flexible Working

What does it mean for your business? 

Parents of children under 17 years of age or disabled children under 18 years of age, have the right to request flexible working if they satisfy the following criteria:

  1. they have at least 26 weeks continuous service on the date
    the application is made and
  2. they are either:
    (i)    the mother, father, adopter, guardian or foster-parent of the child; or
    (ii)   the spouse, civil partner or partner of any of the above
  3. they have or expect to have responsibility for the child's upbringing

Since April 2007, employees caring for certain adults have also been eligible to request flexible working. To qualify, they must be or expect to be caring for a person aged 18 or over who is in need of care and who is: 

        a.   Married to or the civil partner of the employee; or
        b.   A relative of the employee; or
        c.   None of the above but who lives at the same address as the employee

The procedure 

The request must be made in writing (this includes e-mail requests), be dated, and specify it is an application for flexible working identifying the requested changes. The employee must state any effect on the employer's business that the employee anticipates arising out of the change along with ideas about how to deal with this.

The application can only be made in order to care for a child or adult (see above) and only one request can be made per year.

The employee can request changes to the hours they work, the times they work and to work from home. The employer cannot ignore or reject a request just because it has not been properly filled out. The employer must meet with the employee within 28 days of receiving the request. At the meeting the employee has the right to be accompanied and the 'companion' must be a fellow worker employed by the same employer. 

The employer's response

Within 14 days of the meeting the employer must write to the employee to agree the new work pattern and the start date, or provide clear business grounds as to why they cannot accept the request.

Grounds for refusing

Grounds for refusing an employee's request must relate to one of the following:

  • burden of  additional costs
  • detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand
  • inability to re-organise work amongst existing staff
  • inability to recruit additional staff
  • detrimental impact on quality or performance
  • insufficiency of work during the period teh employee proposes to work
  • planned structural changes

The employee can appeal against the decision within 14 days of receiving it with the aim of encouraging both employer and employee to reach a satisfactory outcome. 


If the employer fails to hold the requested meeting or does not notify the employee of its decision, then a Tribunal can impose a financial penalty of up to 8 weeks pay, though this will be capped at a maximum sum per week.

The right operates independently of other employment law rights, and means that an employee whose request is rejected may still be justified in bringing a claim for indirect sex discrimination.

Employers unsure of the rules should seek professional advice when presented with a request under these rules.

Please email Richard Stephens to make an appointment or call 0208 370 2875.