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Considering a Flexible Working Request

Explains how line managers should consider a flexible working request made by a member of their staff and the process that they should follow.

What action should I take upon receiving an application form?

Discuss the application

Normally it will be important for the line manager to meet with the member of staff to discuss their request and its impact as soon as possible after receiving the application. At the meeting staff may be accompanied by a work colleague or trade union representative if they so wish. The line manager should normally seek advice from their HR Advisor/ Manager to ensure that they are considering requests equitably and in line with current legislation, this policy and the available guidance notes and checklist.

Consider the request

Time should be allowed for discussions to take place with other members of staff with regard to consideration of and consultation on any potential operational impact of the request, including on the service provided, students /customers and the other staff involved.
For flexible retirement requests the line manager must seek approval from the Dean/Director of Finance and Commercial Services for USS members or Head of Department/Head of Professional Service for LGPS members before confirming the outcome.

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 this may be agreed to accommodate holiday arrangements or particular business commitments. Any agreed extension should be discussed with the relevant HR Advisor/Manager and should be recorded in writing.

Dealing with multiple requests

When the line manager receives more than one request, they are not required by law to make value judgments about the most deserving request. Each case should be considered on its merits looking at the business case and the possible impact of refusing the request.
The line manager 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. If the line manager is unable to approve a request because any further flexible working arrangements will impact adversely on the business, 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 a capacity for new requests to work flexibly.

What action is taken after the meeting?

If the line manager agrees to the request for flexible working or to the request but with agreed amendments, this decision will be implemented from the agreed start date.

There may be instances where the line manager is unsure whether the arrangements requested are sustainable in the business or about the possible impact on other members of staff’s requests for flexible working. In this situation the line manager can agree to flexible working arrangements for a temporary or trial period rather than rejecting the request. This will be agreed in writing. During any trial period, the change to any terms and conditions of employment will be regarded as temporary. It is good practice to set review points when the member of staff and their line manager can jointly discuss how the new arrangements are working and make any adjustments necessary (this will not apply to flexible retirement requests).

The line manager will inform the HR Advisor of the details of any agreed change to ensure that 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 and 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.

Can an application be withdrawn?

Staff may withdraw their request for flexible working at any time before it has been accepted and any new terms and conditions 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, without good reason, fails to attend two consecutive meetings to discuss the request or an appeal.

What happens if an application is not supported?

If an application is refused, the line manager will reply in writing setting out one or more of the business reasons 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.

Staff will be notified of the appeals procedure.

Guidance for Managers

View the guidance and templates for managers