In what circumstances can an employer reject a request for flexible working?

Employees have a right to request flexible working once they have been employed by you for 26 weeks or more. However, there is a lot of speculation that the 26 week limit may be removed – so watch this space!

An employer can refuse a statutory request for flexible working if the refusal is based on one or more specific grounds as noted below. The list of grounds for refusal, as set out in s.80G(1)(b) of the Employment Rights Act 1996, is drafted in very broad terms.

The specified grounds for refusal are:

  • the burden of additional costs;
  • a detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand;
  • an inability to reorganise work among existing staff or recruit additional staff;
  • a detrimental impact on quality or performance;
  • insufficiency of work during the periods the employee proposes to work;
  • planned structural changes; or
  • such other grounds as may be specified in regulations made by the Secretary of State.

If you have received a request from an employee, and are thinking of refusing it, we would suggest that you seek further advice to ensure you avoid any claims of discrimination or indirect discrimination.