26 Nov 2021  •  Mental Health, News  •  3min read By  • Sarah Buxton

Flexible working requests

Sarah Buxton, FTA Law Employment Solicitor, looks at what you should do if a staff member has a change in circumstances and comes to you with a flexible working request.

Right to request

This isn’t commonly known about in many workplaces, but everyone has the right to make a flexible working request after 26 weeks of service. Most people think that only women who have been on maternity leave can make a flexible working request, but that isn’t the case.

The request can be related to anything, whether it be a change of hours, a change in days, or a request to work from home. When a request is made it is important that you go through a correct procedure. As a business you should have a flexible working procedure in place, or a written policy within a contract. Here is the process you need to go through.

It’s about compromise

When it comes to flexible working arrangements, there aren’t any right or wrong answers because every situation is going to be unique to the individual employee. There will be reasons for the employee putting in the request and there will also be considerations that you, as an owner, will have to consider, such as how it will impact on the business.

In this situation it is all about compromise and trying to find a solution that is right for both parties.

In the past I have I dealt with an issue like this for a practice in London whose receptionist had put in a flexible working request after being on maternity leave. She wanted an hour off at the end of every day and to come in an hour later in the morning for childcare purposes. Obviously, you can’t recruit someone to cover between 8.30am and 9.30am and then for one hour later in the day, and they were unable to re-organise their staff. So, we had numerous business reasons as to why we couldn’t grant the request and it was rejected.

Now this might be the route you have to go down because you have no other choice. However, with the current recruitment issues in the industry, you might want to grant the request and just somehow find a way around it.

If you do reject a request, as with this example, you have to lay out your business reasons as to why you cannot grant a flexible request. It is important you do this part, however, that is all you really need to do, there aren’t a lot of hoops to jump through.

That is because at the end of the day, it is your decision, and you have to decide whether you have the capacity in your business to move things around, or whether sometimes, it is just not possible.

What you as employers should also consider are the wider implications of any decision. If you refuse the request and the employee leaves, that means you are then in a potentially costly recruitment process. So, it’s important to not only look at the request on an immediate level, but also to assess the possible scenarios that might arise from the decision you’re considering.

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