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Considering a flexible working request

Advice for line managers on the process to follow when a member of your team submits a flexible working request.

Receiving a request

Discuss the application

It's important to meet with your member of staff as soon as possible after receiving their flexible working application, to discuss the request and its impact. They may be accompanied to the meeting by a work colleague or trade union representative if they wish.

As a line manager, it’s advisable to seek advice from your HR Advisor or Business Partner before the meeting. It’s important to consider requests fairly and in line with current legislation, as well as this policy and the available guidance notes and checklist.

Consider the request

Allow time for discussions with other members of staff regarding consideration of and consultation on any potential operational impact of the request. This includes the service provided by the staff member, impact on students or customers and other staff involved.

Before confirming the outcome for flexible retirement requests, you must seek approval from the Dean or Director of Finance and Commercial Services for USS members, or the Head of Department or Head of Professional Service for LGPS members.

You may want to have a discussion with the member of staff to see if there is any room for adjustment or compromise before coming to a decision.

You may be unable to approve a request because any further flexible working arrangements will impact adversely on the business. In this case, it would be good practice to consider calling for volunteers from existing flexible working staff to change their contracts back to other arrangements. This could then create capacity for new requests to work flexibly.

Deal with the request promptly

The law requires that all requests, including any appeals, must be considered and decided on within a period of three months − unless an extension to this period is approved by mutual agreement. For example, an extension may be agreed to accommodate holiday arrangements or particular business commitments. Any agreed extension should be discussed with the relevant HR Advisor or Business Partner and recorded in writing.

Dealing with multiple requests

Each case received should be considered on its merits, by looking at the business case and the possible impact of refusing the request.

Agreeing a request

If you agree to the request for flexible working (or agree to it with some amendments), this decision will be implemented from the agreed start date. You will need to use the template letters for any application other than a change to working pattern.

There may be instances where you are unsure whether the arrangements requested are sustainable in the business. Or you might have concerns about the possible impact on other members of staff’s requests for flexible working. In this situation, you can agree to a temporary or trial period for flexible working arrangements, rather than rejecting the request. This will need to be agreed in writing. During any trial period, the change to any terms and conditions of employment will be regarded as temporary.

It's good practice to set review points where you and the member of staff can jointly discuss how the new arrangements are working and make any adjustments as necessary (this will not apply to flexible retirement requests).

You will then need to inform your HR Advisor of the details of any agreed change to ensure the necessary paperwork is completed.

On receipt of the signed variation letter from the member of staff, Human Resources will action any change and inform Payroll and the Pensions Officer.

Any variation in contractual terms approved under the above regulations is a permanent one. Staff have no automatic right to change back to their previous pattern of work unless the application seeks the variation for a specified time period only.

Withdrawn requests

Employees may withdraw their request for flexible working at any time before it has been accepted and any new terms and conditions are put in place. However, if they do so they will not be eligible to make a further application within 12 months. A request can be treated as withdrawn if the member of staff fails to attend two consecutive meetings to discuss the request or an appeal, without good reason.

Refused requests

If an application is refused, you will need to reply in writing, setting out one or more of the business reasons for the refusal and how these apply to the application.

The business reasons are as set out in section 80G of the Employment Rights Act (1996):

  • the burden of additional costs

  • detrimental effect on the ability to meet customer demand

  • inability to re-organise work among existing staff

  • inability to recruit additional staff

  • detrimental impact on quality

  • detrimental impact on performance

  • insufficiency of work during the periods the employee proposes to work

  • planned structural changes

Employees will be notified of the appeals procedure.

Guidance for managers

For further information, please read the guidance and templates for managers.

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