Ask the Expert: Flexible working request

  • Date: 14 March 2022

Calendar pages"One of our receptionists has asked to reduce her days in the practice from five to three to allow her more time to care for her elderly mother. The partners thought that only employees with childcare issues were eligible to request a change of hours, but I don’t think this is the case. I have looked at the rota and we could manage if she changed to three days – but just not the specific days she is asking for."

Any employee – not just those with childcare issues – is entitled to make a flexible working request under the Employment Act 2003, provided they have been employed for more than 26 weeks and have not made a previous application in the last 12 months.

A flexible working request can consist of:

  • a reduction in hours
  • a change of days
  • compressed hours
  • working from home
  • job sharing.

A request for flexible working must be submitted in writing, advising that the request is being made under a statutory right. The letter must be dated and should include:

  • the details of the changes the employee is looking to make
  • the reasons why the request is being made
  • when the employee wants the arrangement to start
  • how the request will affect the practice
  • suggestions on how any impact can be dealt with
  • confirmation that the employee has not made a previous application in the last 12 months.

Once the receptionist submits her request, you should arrange a meeting to discuss the matter further if the practice feels it cannot be accommodated or alternatives need to be offered. The employee has the right to be accompanied at this meeting.

Any request needs to be given serious consideration, taking into account such aspects as the benefits to the employee and the practice and weighing these against any possible adverse impact of implementing the changes. You should also ensure that you do not discriminate unlawfully against the employee.

Once a decision has been reached, this should be advised in writing to the employee. The practice can choose to either accept the request and set a start date (confirming any compromise or alternatives offered), or reject the request and explain the reasons for this.

The eight reasons that a request can be rejected are:

  1. burden of additional costs
  2. detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demands
  3. inability to reorganise work amongst staff
  4. inability to recruit additional staff
  5. detrimental impact on quality
  6. detrimental impact on performance
  7. insufficient work during periods proposed to work
  8. planned structural changes.

All requests, including any appeals, must be considered and decided on within a period of three months from first receipt of the request but this period can be extended through agreement with the employee. Ensure that all requests for flexible working are dealt with fairly and consistently.

If you have any questions regarding the process, contact the employment law advisory team on

This page was correct at the time of publication. Any guidance is intended as general guidance for members only. If you are a member and need specific advice relating to your own circumstances, please contact one of our advisers.

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