HR Question of the Week


I’ve been speaking to a client who’s got a bit of a dilemma – they’ve just received a flexible working request from an employee who needs to leave earlier to pick his children up from school. This is the first request they’ve received; how should they handle this?



I’m surprised this is the first request your client has received; flexible working requests have been increasingly used in recent years as a way for employees to structure their working life around their personal commitments and hobbies.

All employees are entitled to make a statutory flexible working request so long as they have been employed for at least 26 weeks. The right is to make one statutory request in a 12 month period, although your client can decide that they will consider non-statutory requests made within this period.

All flexible working requests received by your client are required to be dealt with in a reasonable manner. This generally includes meeting with the employee, discussing the request, reviewing whether the request can be accommodated and assessing whether there are any alternatives that can be agreed. This whole process should be completed within three months of receiving the request. Most businesses have a flexible working policy which sets out how requests should be made, who they should be made to and how long the process of consideration should take. If the time period is different within this policy, then this should be kept to.

The statutory right is for employees to make the request, not to have it automatically approved. After a full consideration of each individual request, and the availability of any alternatives, a request can be refused for one or more specified business reasons. These include: the burden of additional costs; being unable to reorganise work among additional staff or where approval of the request will cause a negative effect on quality, performance or ability to meet customer demand.

A failure to deal with a statutory flexible working request appropriately could leave your client facing a tribunal claim. A refusal of the request on an unspecified ground will be unfair and could lead to compensation. Your client should also avoid having a blanket ban on flexible working as this may be a discriminatory policy that unfavourably impacts one group of employees.

(a) will apply where there is a rota or schedule so that it is known in advance which days the employee was due to work; those agreed days will be the days for which SSP is potentially payable

(b) will apply where there is a rota or schedule so that it is known in advance that the employee was not due to work that week at all; there will only be one Qualifying Day in the week, and that day will be Wednesday

(c) will apply if there is no rota or schedule in place; every day will be a Qualifying Day for SSP.

It is, therefore, possible for the QDs to change from week to week.

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