Skip to content

Martin Searle Solicitors

01273 609911 Request a Call Back

Flexible Working Law

What is flexible working?

The right to request flexible working was first introduced under the Employment Act 2002 and came into force on April 6, 2003. In 2007, this was expanded to include caring for adult relatives. Under the Flexible Working Regulations 2014, it is no longer necessary to be a carer in order to be eligible.

The right to request consists of:

  • A right to request to work flexibly
  • An obligation on you as the employer to properly consider applications reasonably
  • A limited number of grounds on which you can refuse a request
  1. Who can request flexible working?
  2. What is hybrid working?
  3. What kind of change can be applied for?
  4. The right-to-request procedure
  5. Grounds for refusal
  6. Enforcement
  7. Automatic unfair dismissal
  8. What your employee should do if they feel they have been discriminated against
  9. What you should do if your employee makes a claim under right to request or sex discrimination legislation

Who can request flexible working?

To make a request under this legislation, your employee must:

  • Be employed
  • Have 26 weeks’ continuous employment at the date the application is made
  • Not be an agency worker or a member of the armed forces
  • Not have made another application to work flexibly under the right to request legislation during the preceding 12 months

What is hybrid working?

Hybrid working is sometimes referred to as blended working. This is a form of flexible working that allows employees to split their time between the workplace and working from home.

What kind of change can be applied for?

Your eligible employee may request a change to:

  • Hours worked
  • Times worked
  • Location of work, including homeworking (hybrid working)

There are no real limits on what your employee can request by way of variation, including:

  • Annualised hours
  • Compressed hours
  • Flexi-time or homeworking
  • Job sharing
  • Self-rostering
  • Shift working
  • Staggered hours and term-time working

The right-to-request procedure

The right-to-request procedure was removed in July 2014 and replaced with a more informal procedure that simply requires you to deal with requests in a reasonable manner. What is considered reasonable is set out in the Acas Code of Practice on flexible working requests. However, a request from your employee must be in writing and include the following information:

  • The date of their application, the change to working conditions they are seeking and when they would like the change to come into effect
  • What effect, if any, they think the requested change would have on you as the employer and how, in their opinion, any such effect might be dealt with
  • A statement that this is a statutory request and if and when they have made a previous application for flexible working

Having received a request, you as the employer, unless you intend to agree it, should meet with your employee and allow them to be accompanied to the meeting. You should inform your employee of the decision in writing. If the request is rejected, an appeal should be allowed. The whole process should not last more than three months.

Grounds for refusal

You may refuse a request for flexible working if your employee is not eligible to apply or where one or more of the following grounds apply:

  • 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 or performance
  • Insufficient work during the periods your employee wants to work
  • Planned structural changes

In addition, you can treat your employee’s request as withdrawn if either of the following apply:

  • Your employee, without good reason, fails to attend both the first meeting arranged by you to discuss the employee’s request and the next meeting arranged for that purpose
  • You have allowed your employee to appeal against the rejection of their request, or to make a further appeal, and the employee, without good reason, fails to attend both the first meeting arranged by you to discuss the employee’s appeal and the next meeting arranged for that purpose


Your employees can take a claim relating to an employer’s mishandling of a right to request to an Employment Tribunal. As well as the right to request legislation, Employment Tribunal claims can also be brought under the Equality Act 2010. For example, a woman returning from maternity leave who has had her request to work part-time refused may have an indirect sex discrimination claim. Similarly, a man may be able to bring a claim under the same sex discrimination legislation if he can show a woman’s request would have been treated more favourably. Alternatively, if the employee is disabled the change requested may be a reasonable adjustment they would be entitled to under the Act.

Automatic unfair dismissal

Any of your employees who make an application to work flexibly are protected against detrimental treatment in the same way a woman who takes, or seeks to take, maternity leave is protected. Any dismissal of your employee would automatically be regarded as unfair if the reason for their dismissal was connected to their request to work flexibly. An employee dismissed because they tried to exercise the right to work flexibly may also bring a claim for dismissal for asserting a statutory right.

What your employee should do if they feel they have been discriminated against

It is often advisable to seek legal help before making a formal complaint. To make a formal complaint about treatment relating to the right to request, your employee should:

  • Complain to a line manager or another manager
  • Raise a grievance and discuss it with you at the subsequent meeting

What you should do if your employee makes a claim under right to request or sex discrimination legislation

It is advisable to seek specialist legal help where your employee has made a complaint relating to a right to request or sex discrimination. As the employer, you should also:

  • Investigate the allegations thoroughly and with an open mind
  • Invite the complainant to raise a formal grievance
  • Invite your employee to attend a meeting to discuss the grievance
  • Allow your employee to be accompanied at the meeting
  • Decide on appropriate action
  • Allow your employee to take the grievance further if it is not resolved, for instance, if your employee does not accept the business reasons for rejecting their application;
  • Keep records of any meetings

For specialist Employment Law advice on flexible working, and if you require a free hybrid working policy, contact us today on 01273 609911, or email

Martin Searle Solicitors, 9 Marlborough Place, Brighton, BN1 1UB
T: 01273 609 991

Martin Searle Solicitors is the trading name of ms solicitors ltd, which is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority, and is registered in England under company number 05067303.

© 2024