Flexible Working Disputes

Employees have the right to ask for flexible working arrangements such as varying their start and finish time, asking to work fewer days, or working from home. In turn, employers must weight up a range of factors when deciding whether to accommodate a request for flexible working. In some cases, the request may may not be feasible given the circumstances of the role or changes being asked for. Where an employer has considered a request for flexible working but is unable to reach agreement with the employee, this may give rise to a dispute.

If you find yourself in dispute with an employee over a request for flexible working hours, the specialist employment solicitors at Wilford Smith can help.

Contact us on 0808 164 1349 or complete our online enquiry form to find out how we can help with matters relating to discrimination or harassment.

Our employment lawyers have many years of experience working for employers across all sectors to resolve flexible working disputes as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Based on the circumstances of your case, we will recommend the best course of action to take to ensure an early and amicable outcome.


What is flexible working?

Flexible working is a variation of an employee's working pattern, which can be achieved in a variety of ways. This might include an employee working from home, on a part-time or flexi-time basis, or sharing their role with another worker.


What rights do employees have to flexible working?

Employees have the right to request flexible working arrangements – however, this does not extend to a categoric right to be assigned flexible working hours. There are requirements regarding how an employer should deal with a flexible working request.


Which employees can make requests for flexible working?

Any employee who has 26 weeks of service is eligible to submit a request for flexible working. The right to make such a request is not dependent on the employee having caring responsibilities for children or other dependents. Employees who have worked for you for less than 26 weeks, officeholders and those employed as agency workers do not have a statutory right to request flexible working.


How are employers required to deal with requests for flexible working arrangements?

Employers must consider requests objectively and in a ‘reasonable manner'. You must notify your employee about your decision within three months of their request unless an extension is agreed.


What is meant by a ‘reasonable manner’?

You will be expected to hold a meeting with your employee to discuss their request promptly, give careful consideration to the application and to communicate your decision to them. If you reject the request, you should provide a clear business reason for this. Examples would include that to grant the request would result in additional costs, an inability to re-organise work amongst existing staff or would have a detrimental impact on performance.


Can a temporary period of flexible working be agreed between an employee and employer?

Yes, there is scope for arranging temporary, flexible working arrangements. This might be to allow an employee to cope with a bereavement or to enable them to engage in a short period of study. Once this is completed, your employee would return to their previous terms and conditions. After a temporary period of flexible working, your employee cannot make another statutory request for a period of 12 months.


When can an employee bring a statutory flexible working claim?

An employee has a statutory right to bring a claim in relation to a request for flexible working if they can show that:

  • You did not deal with their application in a reasonable manner.
  • You did not notify them of the decision on their application within the required decision period.
  • You rejected the application for a reason other than one of the statutory grounds.
  • Your decision was based on incorrect facts.
  • You treated the application as withdrawn but neither of the grounds entitling the employer to do so applied.


What will the tribunal consider when deciding on a flexible working claim?

An employment tribunal will take into account a range of factors when deciding whether on a flexible working claim, including:

  • The flexible working request review procedure followed by the employer
  • Whether the request was taken seriously
  • Whether the decision was made using correct facts.
  • Whether the reason given was based on a permitted grounds in ERA 1996 section 80G.


Why Wilford Smith Solicitors?

Wilford Smith was founded over 30 years ago and is now considered one of the UK’s most prestigious law firms, has developed a richly deserved reputation for excellence in our core areas of law, including employment and HR. We are more than just a law firm; we are your trusted legal advisor and will be there at every step of your commercial journey. You are never alone. The advice, support, and representation we provide to your business will be tailored to your needs and specific to your industry sector. You can be assured that with our team managing your employment law matter, exceptional outcomes are the norm.

Our employment law teams are based in Sheffield and advise and represent clients throughout England and Wales. Contact us today on 0808 168 5813 to find out how we can help with matters concerning flexible working disputes.


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