All employees with 26 weeks’ continuous service have the right to request a flexible working arrangement. If you reject such a request do they have any statutory right of appeal?

In April 2014, following legislative changes brought in by the Children and Families Act 2014, the statutory right to request a flexible working arrangement was extended. It now applies to all employees that have accrued 26 weeks’ continuous service. An employee may make numerous flexible working applications throughout the course of their employment but they are limited to a single statutory request in any rolling twelve-month period.

Having received a request you should consider it carefully and always follow the ACAS Code of Practice. Having received the request you should meet with the employee to discuss the details as soon as possible. Following this meeting, you can accept the request (perhaps with conditions), reach a compromise or reject it on one or more of the eight accepted business reasons which are set out in our Guide to Handling Flexible Working Requests* (This Guide and others are available through our Online HR Toolkit –  Read more here >>).

Where you’ve rejected a request because an employee has no right to be making it, e.g. they don’t have sufficient continuity of service or they’ve already made a request for flexible working in the previous twelve months, they’ve no right to appeal your decision. That said, you should explain why their request has been refused. Use the letters and guidance on the Online HR Toolkit to ensure you are covering all the necessary points.

Flexible Working – any right of appeal?

Where the employee has the right to make a flexible working request yet you reject it, the Code says that they should be allowed to lodge an appeal. Should an appeal be received, you should hold an appeal hearing as soon as possible after receiving the appeal notification. You should then write to the employee notifying them of your appeal decision.

Possible outcomes

There are two possible outcomes to an appeal, either the request:

(1) is accepted (perhaps with a compromise); or

(2) is rejected. If it’s the latter, your appeal outcome letter should explain the business ground(s) for your refusal.

Tip 1 – Where an application is agreed, note it will be a permanent change to the employee’s terms and conditions of employment. This is unless you’ve stipulated that the arrangement is a trial or only temporary.

Tip 2 – There are no set time periods for dealing with an appeal, but a flexible working request must be considered and decided on within three months from first receipt, unless you agree otherwise.

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