How Flexible Should Flexible Working Really Be?

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Did you know those without access to flexible working are twice as likely to be dissatisfied in their job? How should employers navigate flexible working requests?

During the pandemic, the CIPD called for flexible working to become a ‘day one’ right, with its Flex From 1st Campaign.

The CIPD’s Flex From 1st Campaign called for flexible working to becoming a ‘day one’ right, and in June 2021 the Flexible Working Bill was first introduced. It recommended that flexible working should be the default position for all workers post-pandemic.

Although this is yet to be enforced and we have seen a rise in flexible and hybrid working, CIPD research suggests that 46% of UK employees still do not have access to any form of flexible working in their current role. 

Flexible working opportunities can benefit everyone: employers, employees and their families. Offering flexible working can also help with the recruitment and retention of staff and promotes a healthy work-life balance.

How Can Employers Be More Flexible?

With the Flexible Working Bill having had a second review in October 2022, the Government has now committed to a number of changes, including a requirement that employers must consult with workers before rejecting an application, in an effort to explore all of the available options before rejecting the request. 

We take a look at best practice when it comes to managing requests for flexible working. 


Ask for the Request in Writing 

The requirement for an employee to set out how the effects of their flexible working request might be dealt with by their employer will be removed, but the request should still be made in writing. 

Arguably, this requirement will encourage the employee to really think about their request and how this might work best for your business, but it also allows you some time to give it some serious thought and come back to the employee once you’ve done so. 

Meet with the Employee Promptly

You might have had some informal conversations about the request and that’s fine – part of the rationale for the changes is to try to normalise the process but you should still arrange a more formal meeting to discuss it. 

Try to meet with the employee as soon as possible after the request has been made. This will help you to get a better understanding of the changes the employee is looking to make, and consider whether the change needs to be permanent or temporary, and how it could be of benefit to both of you. 

Don’t be afraid to ask questions around the reason for making the request. It could make all the difference and help you to reach an agreement you are both happy with. However, you should always be guided by the employee if discussions become ‘sensitive’, and remember that consultation is a two way process!

Consider the Request Fairly and Look at Alternative Options

Whilst consistency is key, each request should be taken on its own merits as each employee’s circumstances will differ and so will their reason for making the request. If it’s just not workable, employers will now need to consider other options and whether a compromise could better suit your workplace. 

Notify the Employee of Your Decision

Be sure to meet with the employee and confirm your decision. This allows you to feedback on your decision making process, what you have taken into consideration, and why you might not be able to agree to their request. It’s important to base your decision on facts and not personal opinion, and the employee will be more accepting of your decision if they understand the reason behind it. 

It’s always best to follow the Acas Code of Practice on flexible working requests | Acas.

For more support around how best to consult with your employees and manage a flexible working request, please contact Kirsty Hunt in our team on 07384 813077.