Changes to the rules on flexible working requests, due to be implemented next year via the Children and Families Bill, extend the right to request to all employees with 26 weeks' service and replace the statutory procedure, under which employers are obliged to consider requests and only reject them if there is a clear business reason, with a duty to respond to flexible working requests in "a reasonable manner". 

Acas has published for consultation a draft statutory code of practice which lists steps to be taken in order to comply with the requirement to handle requests in a reasonable manner.  Employers should:

  • unless they intend to approve the request, arrange a meeting with the employee to discuss the request as soon as possible after receiving the written request
  • hold the discussion in private and allow the employee to be accompanied by a work colleague (and inform the employee about this beforehand)
  • approach requests to work flexibly from the presumption they will be granted unless there is a business reason for not doing so
  • make a costs/benefits analysis
  • ensure they do not discriminate against the employee
  • ensure that a rejection of a request is for a business reason set out in the legislation:
    • additional costs
    • inability to reorganise work or recruit additional staff
    • detrimental impact on quality or performance or ability to meet customer demand
    • insufficient work in the periods the employee proposes to work
    • a planned structural change to the business
  • inform the employee of the decision in writing as soon as possible and allow an appeal against a decision to reject the request
  • deal with both flexible working requests and appeals within three months from receipt.