• By Sam Cook
  • In
  • Posted Tuesday October 6, 2015

Why flexible working requests shouldn’t be ignored...

Over a year on since the right to request flexible working was extended to any employee with more than 26 weeks service, employers and employees are still struggling with the concept of what flexible working is.

With increasing access to the internet and technological developments, home working is becoming increasingly popular with the trend likely to continue.

Flexible working – What is it?

Employers have a duty to consider a request from an employee to work flexibly in a reasonable manner and can only refuse a request on specific legally defined grounds.

Flexible working was traditionally viewed as being there for people with caring responsibilities to work part time. However, in reality, a flexible working request can cover a vast range of arrangements for any number of reasons.

Examples of different flexible working arrangements include:

  • Part time working - A reduction in hours.
  • A change of working hours - For example changing to earlier or later shifts.
  • Core hours working - Having a range of time that must be worked, but the rest of the hours can be worked at any point.
  • Annualised hours - A set amount of hours to work over the year, but no set schedule as to when they are worked.
  • Flexi-time - Having a set amount of hours to work per week, but no set working hours.
  • Job sharing - Two people working in one full time role sharing the workload and responsibilities.
  • Term time arrangements - An agreement that different hours or unpaid leave can be taken in school holidays.
  • Home working - Working from home, whether permanently, flexibly or on specific days.
  • Location changes - Working from a different location.
  • Sabbaticals/career breaks - An extended amount of unpaid leave (sometimes for up to 5 years).
  • Zero hours contracts - Working ad hoc.

Why you shouldn’t ignore it

There are many reasons why requests should be taken seriously.

Ernst & Young recently researched flexible working and concluded that £8.5 billion could be added to the UK through more flexible working and the improvements to performance that could result from it. Two out of three organisations state flexible working improves motivation, commitment and employee relations.

Flexible working can attract and retain key staff.

Where requests have been rejected or mishandled, employees may make a formal complaint to an employment tribunal. This can result in being forced to reconsider the request and/or pay compensation. Compensation can reach up to 8 weeks’ pay (based on a maximum of £475 per week).

Where there is potential discrimination involved (commonly surrounding childcare) further claims can arise which are uncapped in compensation.

Other risks

Monitoring work performance

Remote workers or those that the manager may not see face-to-face very often can cause difficulties when managing workloads and performance levels. When agreeing to flexible working, agreeing a reporting system or how performance will be monitored would be advised.

Health and Safety

The health and Safety Executive suggest that with the increase in home working, an increase in repetitive strain injury has occurred. Employers’ health and safety responsibilities still apply to those working from home so ensuring a work station assessment or visual display unit assessment takes place is important. Equipment may be necessary to ensure home workers can work safely.


Some employees may feel ignored or ‘out of the loop’ whilst working different hours or remotely. Ensuring all staff members are included in any communication is an important consideration.

For specific enquiries surrounding flexible working hours, FPM Members can contact  advice@firstpracticemanagement.co.uk .

Alternatively the policies and protocols library has a range of Flexible Working templates, including acceptance and rejection forms, that members can use.


© First Practice Management, 2015. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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