Allowable Reasons For A Flexible Working Request

So you want to work flexibly? Find out what the allowable reasons for flexible working are under a formal flexible working request.

Older women talking to colleagues


There are lots of reasons why you might be interested in working more flexibly. Many companies and organisations have become more open to flexible working in recent months, while others are still a little reluctant. So it helps to know what your rights are. There are certain ‘allowable reasons’ for a flexible working request, so the first step is to make sure that your flexible working plans fit under one of these.

Allowable reasons for a flexible working request

The following are all seen as reasonable changes to your working structure

  • To reduce your hours and work part-time
  • To change your start/finish time
  • To have a flexible start or finish time
  • To complete your working hours over fewer days (‘compressed hours’)
  • To work from home or elsewhere (‘remote working’)
  • To share the job with someone else

The changes might be for all working days, for specific days of the week or shifts. They could also be for certain weeks of the year, such as school term time, or for a limited time (a few months).

Do I have the right to make a request?

There are a few rules around making a flexible working request. You need to have worked for your employer for at least 26 weeks and be legally classed as an employee. It must be at least 12 months since you last made a flexible working request.

All employees have the right to request flexible working or flexible hours at work. While they are commonly made by parents and carers, there are no restrictions on who is able to make a request.

What to include in a flexible working request letter

Part of requesting flexible hours at work or remote working is to submit a formal letter. This flexible working request letter should include the following:

  • that you are making a ‘statutory flexible working request’
  • the date
  • the change you’re requesting – e.g. the details of your flexible working hours
  • when you’d like to start flexible working
  • ways to address any impact on your work or the business
  • dates of any previous flexible working requests you’ve made

If there are any potential benefits the change might bring, mention these too. For example, perhaps the approach will save the company money, or another person in your team is also seeking to reduce their hours so you could recommend a job share.

Need a template? Get one here.

Can my employer reject my flexible working request?

Your employer must look at your request fairly and give you their decision within a maximum of 3 months.

There are only limited reasons why your employer can refuse your flexible working request. Generally, these would involve the business being adversely affected by your flexible working hours.

If you make a non-statutory request and your employer refuses, they don’t need to give you a reason.

If it’s your statutory request, they must show clear grounds for doing so, based on clear business reasons. Your employer is not allowed to discriminate against you in its decision.

Reasons for refusing a request

Your employer can only reject a statutory request for a limited number of reasons. These are:

  • That structural changes are planned
  • There will be additional costs
  • Quality or standards will suffer
  • Recruiting additional staff is not possible
  • Performance will suffer
  • Reorganising work among existing staff is not possible
  • There will be problems meeting customer demand
  • There is not enough work to do at the times you propose to work.

What can I do to make my flexible working hours request successful?

Think in advance about what your request might mean to your company and the team you work in. Address the potential concerns that might arise from your request application.

For example, if there is an argument that your new flexible hours at work could mean there are fewer people around to answer the phones/respond to emails, make a suggestion of how this could be overcome.

Also, think about any ways in which your suggested working pattern may in fact benefit your employer. For example if you wanted to change your hours to work some hours in the evening,  and this provided extra coverage for customer service for overseas clients, then this could be a real business benefit for your employer.

It usually helps to have had informal discussions at work before you submit your letter, to identify any potential issues. Talk to your colleagues as well as your manager.

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