A guide for employees and employers
What to do when you receive a request
“Duty to consider” a request
Employers have a legal duty to consider all requests. You should consider each request objectively and not attempt to judge whether one applicant’s need for flexible working arrangements is greater than another’s.
How should requests be acknowledged?
It is best practice to acknowledge receipt of the request. An acknowledgement slip is included on the bottom of Form A: Request Form for flexible working arrangements. This allows you to readily confirm the date on which the request was made and can be particularly important if there has been a delay in the request reaching you.
What happens if the request is incomplete?
If an employee fails to provide all the information required, you should let the employee know what they have omitted and ask them to re-submit the request when complete. You should also inform the employee that you are not obliged to consider the request until it is complete and re-submitted.
Employers must deal with a request as soon as possible but no later than 3 months after they received it.
Advice on what to think about when considering a request is provided in the Factsheet for Employers.
What happens if the employer needs more time to reach a final decision?
While the 3 month time limit for dealing with a request should provide ample time for an employer to make a decision, it is possible that you may need more. In these circumstances, you should discuss this with the employee and come to an agreement about when a decision will be reached.
What if the employer is unsure about accepting a request?
Experience shows that the best way for both parties to understand each other’s position and identify a solution that meets all their needs is to discuss the request face-to-face. However, such a meeting is not required under the law.
A discussion will provide both parties with the opportunity to talk about the desired working arrangement in depth and consider how it might be accommodated. It will help if both the employer and the employee are prepared to be flexible.
If the requested working arrangement cannot be accommodated, a discussion may help identify an alternative working arrangement.
Would a trial period help?
Trial periods can help both employees and employers because they provide an opportunity, without commitment, to test a particular arrangement to see if it works out to the satisfaction of all.
An employee may, for example, be concerned about making a permanent change to their employment agreement, while the employer might be concerned about how the proposed working arrangement may affect other staff or business operations.
A trial period of, say, 12 weeks will give both the employee and the employer a chance to find out whether the chosen arrangement will really work out well in practice.
How would a trial period work in practice?
Trial periods can happen in two ways.
Option One: Informal request
The employer gives informal agreement to a trial before the employee submits a formal request.
After this informal trial period, employer and employee may conclude that a permanent change to the employment arrangement is not the best option.
This option also allows the employee to make a formal request at a later date.
Option Two: Formal Request
A formal request is made but an extension of time for the employer to make a decision is also agreed.
The trial period then takes place before a final agreement is confirmed.
If the trial period works out successfully, the new working arrangement can then be confirmed by a formal agreement.
However, if this option is taken, the employee has no right under Part 6AA to make another request for 12 months.
Put it in writing
No matter how informal an arrangement is, it is always a good idea to put it in writing.
Recording the terms of the trial period in writing will ensure both employee and employer are clear about start and end dates and have an agreed understanding of other important considerations such as a reduction in the employee’s wages or salary.
Would a temporary period of working flexibly be appropriate?
A permanent change to an employment agreement may not always be the best option.
This might be the case, for example, where an employee is caring for someone who has a fluctuating condition.
In cases like this two options are available.
Option One: Informal agreement
This involves an informal agreement between employer and employee – outside the framework of Part 6AA - to flexible working for a limited period or a provision to make flexible work available as and when the need arises.
In this case, the employee still has the right under Part 6AA to make a formal request at a later date.
Option Two: Time-limited agreement
Alternatively, the employer and employee might agree to a time-limited change after which they would revert back to the original arrangement.
In this case, the employee would then have no right under Part 6AA to make another request within 12 months if he or she subsequently wanted the change to be made permanent.