Must an employee provide a reason when making a statutory request for flexible working?

No. There is no statutory requirement for an employee to provide a reason when making a statutory request for flexible working. The right to request flexible working is no longer limited to requests made for the purpose of enabling the employee to care for someone and there is no requirement on the employee to set out his or her reason for making the request.

That does not mean, however, that the reason for the request is irrelevant. For example, where the employee makes a request to accommodate caring responsibilities, that request may well engage the principles of indirect sex discrimination. This is because women remain much more likely than men to have to make adjustments in their working arrangements to accommodate childcare or the care of other relatives.

There is nothing in the legislation to prevent an employer from asking the employee why he or she is making the flexible working request, and knowing more about the employee's needs may assist the employer in suggesting a way in which those needs can be met. However, employers should not use the lack of a good reason as a ground for refusing the request.