How should I go about making a request for flexible working?

Acas has put together a Code of Practice for employers on handling requests to work flexibly in a reasonable manner, plus guidance which includes some worked examples. You can find these documents on the Acas website.

Your employer is not obliged to agree to your request, but they must deal with your request in a 'reasonable manner', and can only reject it for one of the following business reasons:

  • the burden of extra costs;
  • inability to organise work amongst existing staff;
  • inability to recruit extra staff;
  • detrimental impact on quality;
  • detrimental impact on performance;
  • detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand;
  • insufficient work for the periods the employee wants to work; and
  • a planned structural change to the business.

Before making a formal request, it is a good idea to think about whether you might be better starting off by making an informal approach to your line manager – especially if, for example, your need for flexibility is temporary (say, to respond to bereavement or to do short-term study). Speak to your rep about what sort of approach is best for you.

According to the Acas Code of Practice, a formal request should contain:

  • the date of your application, the change to working conditions you would like and when you would like it to come into effect;
  • an explanation as to what impact, if any, you think the change will have on the business and how you think that effect might be dealt with;
  • a statement that you are making a statutory request; and
  • a statement explaining if and when you made any previous application for flexible working. 

Your employer should have a policy in place to explain how flexible working requests are to be handled. Your employer is free to ask for less than the information listed above, but however they decide to handle these requests, they must have clear rules about what information you need to provide.

Remember that any change will be permanent unless you agree otherwise, so if you would like to negotiate a temporary change, make this clear in your request.

Note: This content is provided as general background information and should not be taken as legal advice or financial advice for your particular situation. Make sure to get individual advice on your case from your union, a source on our free help page or an independent financial advisor before taking any action.

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