Flexible Working Conversations

Why the extension of flexible working may lead to some challenging conversations...


Anyone with a minimum of 26 weeks continuous employment can now make a request to work flexibly, to vary their working hours, days or location.

This is great news for employees but may not be such good news for you. This is because it seems many employees have interpreted the new legislation to mean that they have the right to work flexibly when it is only the right to make the request annually which has been placed on the Statute book.

While every application must be fully considered and responded to reasonably, you can still refuse the request if you believe it would have a detrimental impact on your business.

What makes such requests potentially difficult to handle is that there can never be any precedents for flexible working.

Just because a request was granted in the past, it doesn’t mean that the same pattern of flexibility will automatically be acceptable.

Think about an office with a team of 4 full time employees where the opening hours of 8.30 till 5pm each day must be covered. One of the team members, a single parent, who has already had their flexible working request accepted, has been starting later each morning to accommodate their school age child.

Following the recent changes in legislation, another member of the team makes a request to follow the same pattern of hours. You can’t automatically agree to the request as the situation has changed since the original flexible arrangement was put in place. You may feel that this second request has to be rejected because it could result in an unacceptably low level of cover which would have a negative impact on your customers. To the new applicant this stance might seem very unreasonable – why is it okay for their colleague to come in later and not them?  

What can you do?

The ACAS Code of Practice Handling in a reasonable manner requests to work flexibly  provides a useful framework to help you to handle these requests. However you must think through the impact of a refusal carefully and make sure you clearly explain why that particular request isn’t feasible or your refusal could have a detrimental impact on morale.

Take a look at how we can help you tackle these types of challenging conversations confidently and positively in our management skills workshop held in Dorset and the surrounding area.   

Or get in touch if you would like individual support on the specific issues you face


Hilary Cowell: 22nd Apr 2015 00:00:10


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