How should the employer respond if an employee fails to attend a meeting to discuss a statutory request for flexible working?

While there is no statutory duty on an employer to hold a meeting with an employee to discuss his or her statutory request for flexible working, the employer has a duty to handle the request in a reasonable manner. The Acas code of practice on handling in a reasonable manner requests to work flexibly recommends that employers should hold a meeting to discuss the request. The code will be taken into account by employment tribunals in relevant cases.

If an employee fails to attend a scheduled meeting to discuss a statutory request for flexible working, the employer should contact the employee, request an explanation for his or her absence and attempt to reschedule the meeting if appropriate.

If the employee does not have a good reason for failing to attend the meeting, the employer may wish to make a decision on his or her request at this stage, without rescheduling the meeting. The employer should bear in mind its duty to handle the request in a reasonable manner when making such a decision.

Under s.80G(1D) of the Employment Rights Act 1996, if the employee fails without good reason to attend both the initial meeting and a rescheduled meeting, the employer can treat the application as withdrawn. It must confirm in writing to the employee that it has decided to treat the application as withdrawn.