Flexible working: what is the employer’s responsibility?

Last updated: 04 Mar 2020

The employer is under a statutory duty to consider the request and to comply with the legal procedures for doing so. However, if the employer refuses, there is no legal right for the employee to challenge how reasonable this decision is.

An employer can only refuse an application if it considers that one or more of the following grounds apply:

  • the burden of additional costs
  • detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand
  • inability to reorganise work among existing staff
  • inability to recruit additional staff
  • detrimental impact on quality
  • detrimental impact on performance
  • insufficient work during the periods the employee proposes to work
  • planned structural changes.


Once the employee has made the application:

  • the employer must consider the request in a reasonable manner
  • the employer is under a duty to deal promptly with requests
  • a final decision must be given within three months of the application being received
  • the three-month limit can be extended by agreement
  • the final decision must be given in writing, specifying a reason. The employer is not required to provide a written explanation for the refusal.

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