How should an employer respond to a request for flexible working?

Prior to 30 June 2014, there was a detailed statutory procedure for employers to follow when dealing with statutory requests for flexible working. The procedure has been replaced by a requirement on employers to deal with such requests in a reasonable manner. The employer must notify the employee of its decision within three months of the request, or a longer period if agreed with the employee.

The Acas code of practice on handling in a reasonable manner requests to work flexibly sets out guidance for employers. The code will be taken into account by employment tribunals in relevant cases.

The code recommends that the employer should:

  • arrange a meeting with the employee to discuss the application as soon as possible after receiving it (unless the intention is to approve the request), allowing him or her to be accompanied by a work colleague;
  • "consider the request carefully looking at the benefits of the requested changes in working conditions for the employee and [the] business and weighing these against any adverse business impact of implementing the changes";
  • inform the employee of its decision in writing as soon as possible;
  • discuss with the employee how and when the changes might best be implemented (if the employee's request is granted, or granted with modifications); and
  • allow the employee to appeal the decision if the request is rejected (a request can be rejected only on certain specified grounds).