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Are employers obliged to accept a request for flexible working?

View profile for Gillian Markland
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Are employers obliged to accept a request for flexible working?

With the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic resulting in large numbers of employees working from home, many have found that they can work just as effectively as they did whilst in the office.

Recent statistics and surveys have shown that many employees would prefer a more permanent flexible working arrangement going forward because of the various benefits they feel they have experienced.

What does this mean for employers?

From a legal standpoint, all employees with a minimum of 26 weeks’ service can submit a flexible working request which their employer must deal with “in a reasonable manner” within three months. “Flexible working” can cover a number of scenarios including:-

  • Homeworking
  • Flexible hours – also known as flexitime
  • Job-sharing

These are just a few examples of the requests for flexible working which you could receive.

Are employers obliged to accept a request for flexible working?

The short answer is no. You are not obliged as there a number of grounds on which you can refuse a request for flexible working. However, if the request for flexible working is mishandled and the employee feels as if they have been discriminated against under one of the grounds set out in the Equality Act 2010 then you could potentially face a claim in the Employment Tribunal. It is important to note that the cap for compensation with discrimination claims is unlimited which can prove to be extremely costly for your business.

Needless to say, it is important to ensure that pre-emptive measures are put in place in order to avoid any potential claims in the Employment Tribunal.

If you have received or suspect that you will be receiving flexible working requests from your employees, then please contact our Employment team for advice on how to handle such requests.

Our articles are intended for general information purposes only and are not a substitute for professional advice tailored to your specific circumstances. We are always very happy to discuss any plans, issues or concerns you may have and to clarify how we might be able to help. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.