The right to request - Responding to a flexible working request

The right to request

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.

Some employees will have a legal ('statutory') right to ask for a change to their contract with a 'flexible working request'.

For example, they might ask to:

  • reduce their hours to work part time
  • change their start and finish time
  • have flexibility with their start and finish times (sometimes known as 'flexitime')
  • do their hours over fewer days ('compressed hours')
  • work from home or elsewhere ('remote working'), all or part of the time
  • share the job with someone else

The change could be for:

  • all working days
  • specific days or shifts only
  • specific weeks only, for example during school term time
  • a limited time, for example for 6 months only

Who has the right to request

Employees have the right to make a flexible working request if:

  • you've employed them for at least 26 weeks
  • they're legally classed as an employee
  • they've not made another flexible working request in the last 12 months

If the request is from a parent or carer

The right to request flexible working applies to all employees, including those who are:

  • parents
  • carers
  • women returning from maternity leave

Requests from parents or carers should not be prioritised over requests from other employees.

There might be other ways parents or carers can take time off work. For example, using parental leave or time off for dependants.

If the request is from an employee who's disabled

You should encourage employees to make any type of request that relates to a disability as a reasonable adjustment request.

The main reasons for this are that:

  • a reasonable adjustment request is often the fastest and most effective way to address a disability-related request
  • equality law might require you to respond to a disability-related request faster than your flexible working process allows
  • disability-related requests fall under equality law – you should consider them separately from flexible working requests

If an employee makes a flexible working request and you think it might relate to disability, ask them if this is the case. You should do this sensitively, such as in a private chat.

If it does relate to disability, see if they want to make a reasonable adjustment request instead. If they do not, or if the request is not related to disability, continue to treat it as a flexible working request.

For example, a disabled employee asks for time off on Wednesdays to provide childcare for a relative's child. You should treat this as a flexible working request.
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