Under what circumstances can my employer refuse my request for flexible working?

Your employer may only turn down a request for flexible working on one or more of a number of ‘business’ grounds. These are:

  • 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; and
  • planned structural changes.

If your employer turns down your request, either initially or after an appeal hearing, they must set out their clear business reasons for doing so and explain how these reasons apply to your application. The reasons must appear in the list set out above.

The employer's explanation is likely to be important to your case in any subsequent legal proceedings, whether under the statutory flexible working regime or other legal rights such as the right not to suffer indirect sex discrimination or the employer’s duty to make reasonable adjustments. The Acas Code of Practice (PDF, 170KB) says that your employer’s response should be in writing.

A tribunal will not normally second-guess an employer’s business reasons for rejecting a request, but they will expect to see the evidence the employer relied on to make their assessment.

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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