Options for agreeing changes - Statutory flexible working requests

Options for agreeing changes

Employees have a statutory (legal) right to request a change to when, where or how they work. If they make a statutory flexible working request, their employer must follow the statutory procedure.

Employees and employers can also discuss and agree changes without using the statutory procedure. Sometimes a quick chat might be all that's needed to agree a change.

The statutory right to request flexible working

Employees have a statutory right to request flexible working. This applies from the first day of the job.

Employers can accept, partially accept or reject a request. The employer can only reject the request if there's a genuine business reason.

If an employee makes a statutory flexible working request, the employer must:

  • handle it in a reasonable way, in line with the Acas Code of Practice on requests for flexible working

  • accept the request unless there's a genuine business reason not to

  • consult the employee and discuss any alternative options – unless they've agreed to the request in full

  • make a decision within a maximum of 2 months

  • not dismiss or cause the employee detriment because of their request

Find out more about:

Agreeing a change without using the statutory procedure

Employees and employers can agree flexible working arrangements informally without using the statutory procedure.

For example, if someone:

  • prefers to informally ask for a change

  • does not have a statutory right to request flexible working – this could be because they're legally classed as a worker or have not started their job yet

  • has already made 2 statutory requests that year

  • needs to ask for a short-term or urgent change

As an employee, you might be able to agree a change by talking to your manager. It can be quicker and easier to agree a change this way.

If you informally ask for flexible working, you and your employer do not need to follow the statutory procedure.

While there's no legal obligation to follow the Acas Code for informal requests, following a similar procedure can help:

  • deal with requests fairly and reasonably
  • avoid delays
  • handle requests consistently
  • keep good working relationships

If a change is agreed

If an employer and employee agree a flexible working change, this usually changes the terms of the employment contract.

For example, if the change relates to the employee's:

  • working hours

  • job location

  • job description

  • pay

If any contract terms change, the employer must put them in writing within one month of agreeing them.

Find out more about:

Asking for a change related to a disability

A disabled employee might need to ask for adjustments to where, when or how they work because of their disability.

In this situation they could make either:

  • a reasonable adjustment request, under the Equality Act 2010

  • a statutory flexible working request, under the Employment Rights Act 1996

As an employee, you should carefully consider each option to decide what's best for your circumstances.

Making a reasonable adjustment request

A reasonable adjustment is a change that removes or reduces a disadvantage related to someone's disability. By law (Equality Act 2010), employers have a legal duty to make reasonable adjustments for disabled employees.

Find out more about:

Making a statutory flexible working request

The legal duty to make reasonable adjustments is separate to the legal duty to consider a flexible working request.

If an employee makes a flexible working request related to their disability, the employer must follow both:

  • the statutory procedure for flexible working requests

  • the law on reasonable adjustments when making a decision

The employer does not need to follow the law on reasonable adjustments if the flexible working request does not relate to the employee's disability. For example, if they request to reduce their hours to study part time.

This can be a complicated area and it's important for employers to understand their legal responsibilities. If an employer does not follow the law, an employee could make a claim to an employment tribunal.

Get more advice and support

Employees and employers can get more advice or support:

Before a job starts

The statutory right to request flexible working does not apply until the first day of a job.

However, employers should think about flexible working options for a job before an employee starts. This can help prepare for any requests.

It's good practice for employers to:

  • think about how the job might be done flexibly before advertising

  • advertise any specific flexible working options that are available

  • say in job adverts that they're open to discussing other flexible working options

  • discuss flexible working before the applicant starts the job

  • be open to what might be possible

This can help:

  • start conversations about flexible working

  • agree flexible working arrangements as early as possible

  • start a good working relationship

  • avoid the applicant turning down the job

If you've been offered a job and would like to agree a flexible working arrangement, you can:

  • discuss it with the employer – you can do this before or after you start

  • make a statutory flexible working request once you start the job

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