Research has been carried out into the role that flexible working is playing in the UK employment market.  The research, which was carried out by Powwownow, a conference call service provider, revealed that 75% of the UK employees surveyed found jobs that offered flexible working more appealing.  Over half said that this would be "crucial" in their next job choice.

Of those surveyed, only 25% had been offered the chance to work flexibly.  So, what is the legal requirement in this regard?

Since 30 June 2014, employees who have at least 26 weeks' continuous service, have had a statutory right to request flexible working (with a limit of 1 request in any 12 month period).  The request must be in writing and the employer then has a 3 month period in which to consider it, which may be extended by agreement.  Employers must deal with the request in a reasonable manner and may only refuse it for one or more of the 8 reasons set out in the legislation.  These are:

  • the 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;

  • detrimental impact on performance;

  • insufficiency of work during the periods the employee proposes to work; or

  • planned structural changes.

Employees making flexible working requests would be well-advised to think of arguments to counter these possible reasons for refusal and ensure that these are covered in the original request.

Employers should bear in mind the requirement to deal with the requests reasonably.  Discussion with the employee should take place, covering the benefits of the flexible working as well as possible issues and how they might be countered. Employers could agree to a change on a trial period in order to assess the impact.