If the request is turned down - Making a flexible working request

If the request is turned down

Important: This advice reflects the current law. We will update this advice in 2024 when new flexible working law comes into force. Read more about the new flexible working law on GOV.UK.

Your employer can turn down your flexible working request if there’s a valid business reason for doing so.

By law, your employer can turn down your flexible working request if:

  • it will cost too much
  • they cannot reorganise the work among other staff
  • they cannot recruit more staff
  • there will be a negative effect on quality
  • there will be a negative effect on the business’ ability to meet customer demand
  • there will be a negative effect on performance
  • there’s not enough work for you to do when you’ve requested to work
  • there are planned changes to the business, for example, your employer plans to reorganise or change the business and thinks the request will not fit with these plans

Colin works in a small call centre answering calls from customers in the United States. He asks to change his hours, to start at 7am instead of 11am each day so he can finish earlier.

Colin’s employer reviews the request and looks at the call patterns. There are only a few calls between 7am and 11am, and making the change would mean there’d be fewer people to cover peak call times later in the day.

Colin’s employer cannot agree to the request because there’s not enough work for him to do and it would have a negative effect on meeting customer demand.

If it’s unclear how a change will work in practice, you could see if your employer might consider a trial.


Raj is an estate agent working at a small estate agency. He asks to work compressed hours over 4 days. This means he would work 7am to 7pm over 4 days so he can have Thursdays off to study.

Raj’s employer is worried the business will lose sales and get complaints if Raj is not available on Thursdays. For these reasons, Raj’s employer considers refusing his request. However, the employer values Raj and wants to keep him.

Raj and his employer agree to try the compressed hours for 10 weeks, and then make a decision.

During the trial, other staff successfully deal with customer enquiries on Thursdays and Raj’s meets his sales targets. Raj’s employer also finds some customers like being able to reach Raj outside normal office hours Monday to Wednesday. 

As the trial is a success, Raj’s employer agrees to continue with the new working hours.

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