Step-by-step procedure for managers

Step 1: Acknowledge the flexible working application

When this form is received from your employee, you should acknowledge its receipt (see the confirmation of receipt pro forma letter appended to the Flexible working application (43kb).


Step 2: Meeting the employee

A meeting must take place between the employee and the departmental administrator, or his or her nominee, (or the specified divisional representative in the case of academic staff) to discuss the request for flexible working within 28 days of the date on which the request has been made. In order to  be able to demonstrate that the timetable is being adhered to, it is recommended that administrators keep a full written record. You can do this using the checklist provided.

The department and employee may agree to extend the time scale for responding to the request (see general principles), e.g. where the individual who would ordinarily consider the employee's request for flexible working is absent, on annual leave or on sick leave at the time that the request is received. The meeting should provide an opportunity for the department and the employee to examine the flexible working arrangement requested by the employee and to discuss how the department might accommodate the arrangement. Other possible flexible working arrangements should be examined if it is likely that the department cannot accommodate the flexible working arrangement requested by the employee. Please note that:

  • The time and place of the meeting must be convenient to the departmental representative and the employee and his or her representative (where appropriate)
  • You are advised to keep a written record of this meeting.

Step 3: Determining a response

The department's decision on the employee's request for flexible working must be given to that employee within 14 days of the date of the meeting. The department's decision must be given in writing, and dated. There are acceptance and rejection forms for this purpose. However, if you prefer, you may send this information in the form of a letter.

The department and employee may agree to extend the 14-day time scale because, for example, the department requires more time to examine the requested flexible working arrangement. In such a case, the extension should be conveyed to the employee concerned in writing (see general principles).

(i) Trial period

If you are uncertain about the impact that a request for flexible working will have on the department, you may wish to allow the employee to work under the requested flexible working arrangement for a trial period to determine in practice whether that arrangement could be successfully implemented.

For example, if a part-time working arrangement is having an adverse effect on the department during a trial period you will be in a better position to demonstrate this to the employee concerned.

Remember you can always extend the time limit if you wish to accommodate a trial period. If you decide to do this, the agreement must:

  • be recorded in writing by the department,
  • be dated,
  • specify what time limit the extension relates to, and
  • specify the date on which the extension is to end.

You should also clearly spell out:

  • that your agreement to the employee's request for flexible working is subject to the outcome of the trial period,
  • the length of the trial period (i.e. when the period starts and when it ends),
  • that the change to the employee's terms and conditions of employment during the trial period is a temporary change only,
  • the exact nature of the temporary changes to the employee's terms and conditions of employment during the trial period (e.g. a change in working hours), and
  • the date on which the employee will revert to his or her previous terms and conditions of employment if, after the trial period, the department rejects his or her request for flexible working.

If you decide to reject the request for flexible working following the trial period, you should ensure that you give your employee sufficient time to re-adjust to his or her previous terms and conditions of employment. For example, the employee should be given sufficient time to make alternative care arrangements or reorganise their other activities. In effect, this could, by agreement, extend the length of the trial period.

If the department agrees with the employee's request for flexible working following a trial period, you must also specify the flexible working arrangement and any contractual variation that has been agreed to and the date that the arrangement and, where appropriate, the contractual variation will begin.

(ii) Refusing requests

If the department refuses the employee's request for flexible working either with or without a trial period, you must state the operational grounds for that refusal and provide a sufficient explanation as to why those grounds for refusal apply in relation to the request.

Please note that the Flexible Working Regulations 2014 specify that an employer can only refuse a request for flexible working on one or more of the statutory grounds listed below:

  • the burden of additional costs,
  • a detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand,
  • an inability to re-organise work among existing staff,
  • an inability to recruit additional staff,
  • a detrimental impact on quality,
  • a detrimental impact on performance,
  • insufficiency of work during the periods the employee proposes to work,
  • planned structural changes.

It is important that you think about the operational reasons listed above in relation to the operating practice of your department. If you are not able to accommodate the suggested working pattern, you should be willing to think about other options which may be acceptable to the department and employee and to negotiate these with the employee.

If you do have to refuse the employee's request for flexible working, you should at the same time notify the employee of the appeal procedure.

Step 4: Appeal procedure

An employee whose request for flexible working has been refused by the department has the right to appeal against the decision normally within 14 days after the date on which he or she was notified of that decision.

The employee's notice of appeal must be given in writing, set out the grounds of his or her appeal, and be dated.

The department and employee may agree to extend the 14-day limit (see general principles).

(i) The appeal meeting

An appeal meeting should take place between the employee and the department to discuss the appeal within 14 days of the date on which the employee gives notice of appeal. Ideally, if the request was originally considered by the departmental administrator, an appeal should be heard by the Head of Department, or his or her nominee. The time and place of the appeal meeting must be convenient to the Head of Department (or the nominee) and to the employee and his or her representative (where appropriate).

You are advised to keep a written record of this meeting.

The department and employee may agree to extend the 14-day time limit (see general principles).

(ii) Making a decision

The department's decision on the appeal must be given to the employee within 14 days after the date of the appeal meeting; it must be given in writing and dated. The department and employee may agree to extend the 14-day time limit because, for example, the department requires more time to examine the requested flexible working arrangement (see general principles).

If you uphold the appeal, you must also specify the flexible working arrangement and the contractual variation, and the date from which the arrangement and contractual variation will begin.

If you dismiss the appeal you must set out the grounds for your decision and sufficiently explain why those grounds apply (see operational reasons in step 3).

The outcome of the appeal should be notified to the employee within three months of first receiving the flexible working request, unless the employee and the department have agreed to extend the timescale.