All qualifying employees in the UK have the right to make a request for flexible working. But what happens if the request is refused?
Flexible working requests can only be refused for limited reasons under UK employment law, meaning employers must give due consideration to them.
Our guide talks about the next steps and we will also give an overview of the valid reasons for refusing flexible working requests.
This will help you establish whether you have been treated fairly or not.
8 Reasons for Refusing a Flexible Work Request
Employers must have a valid reason for refusing your flexible working request. It cannot just be a simple “no”, there needs to be a clear reason to back up the refusal.
It is essential to understand these reasons before you think about your response to the refusal. There are 8 valid reasons for an employer to decline your flexible working request:-
1. It will have a negative financial impact on the business.
It may be the case that your request will cost the company too much.
Some examples of flexi work may mean the employer has to take on an additional member of staff. Or increase someone else’s hours to compensate you for starting and finishing at different times. It may make no financial sense at that time.
2. Deadlines and customer demands will not be met.
Your boss may decide that your working part time will mean that the business demands will not be met.
This is a good reason for an employer to decline your request. For example, you wish to work longer hours over fewer days, but you are needed to be there physically every day to deal with certain tasks.
3. Hiring extra staff is not an option.
Your request might mean that your manager would need new staff on board. This isn’t always a viable option and your request might be refused on this basis.
If your flexible working means extra staff will have to be hired, it will often make no financial sense to the business. This is especially the case in smaller workplaces where hiring isn’t a regular occurrence.
4. It will impact the other staff members too much.
Your employer may decide that it would mean too much disruption among the other staff.
Your request might mean changing other employees’ contracted hours and days which is not always viable. It can mean a complete change to the staffing structure day to day which is often just not possible.
5. Quality of work will be adversely affected.
Your employer may have reason to believe that flexible working will lead to a deterioration in the quality of work carried out.
If they have a strong case of believing this to be true, they may well refuse your request. They will not want to risk the work carried out being affected.
6. Overall performance will be compromised.
It may be that overall performance will be compromised so your employer turns down your request.
Anything that affects team or individual performance will negatively impact the workplace itself. This might affect the reputation and, therefore, future clients might be harder to find.
7. Your new hours will not fit into the workload requirements.
Sometimes, an employee’s hours are set out in line with the job and its demands on certain days and times.
This may mean that if a member of staff wishes to work shorter days or drop days completely, this simply isn’t practical. Perhaps the phone lines are busiest on a Monday morning and the employee wishes to come in at lunchtime. This is reasonable grounds for your request to be declined.
8. It will interfere with proposed business changes.
There may well be changes afoot at your place of work and your request will not fit in with such changes.
Your employer may have plans to change the infrastructure which will mean changes to staffing numbers. Or there may be a new approach to contracted hours and days. Such plans may mean your request just isn’t feasible at this time.
Appealing a Flexible Working Refusal – Your Options
It can come as a blow to be told your request has been declined However, this doesn’t mean you can’t explore other options.
Sometimes your employer might be willing to find a compromise if it means keeping you on as a valued employee.
It is also important to remember that you can request a different approach to flexible working. Also, you can submit another request in 12 months.
Talk to Your Manager
Although it is normal to feel disappointed, it is important to remain calm and professional when faced with a refusal.
Keep things as informal as you can, to begin with. This helps keep everything on an even keel and protects the work environment. You could ask for an alternative approach or maybe even ask for the request to be kept on record.
There may be a time when the request can be reconsidered, especially if your employer doesn’t want to risk you handing your notice in.
Raise a Grievance
If you feel that your request was not handled appropriately then you can opt to raise a grievance.
This is a formal procedure and should be based on a good reason for disputing the decision. The workplace should have a policy in place for grievances so everyone involved should follow this.
This should be put in writing and the employer will deal with it according to the law. Your employer will look again at your claim. If the answer is still a no then you have the right to appeal further.
Make an Employment Tribunal Claim
If no compromise can be reached and you feel you haven’t been given a valid reason, then you can pursue a legal claim.
This involves going through the employment tribunal process. This can be costly to the employer and stressful for everyone and should be used as a last resort. You need to claim within 3 months of your request and appeal being refused.
Claimants may be able to enter early conciliation before your case goes to the Employment Tribunal.
Flexible Working Refusal Case Law – Ms Hedger v British Deaf Association
An employee was awarded £36,000 in compensation after her flexible working request was refused when she returned from maternity leave. The refusal led to her resignation.
Her flexible working request asked that:-
- Her working hours be reduced to 16 per week.
- She suggested the employee who covered her maternity could be retained under a job share arrangement to cover the rest of her role.
Her flexible work request was refused. Ms Hedger subsequently appealed and requested to work 24 hours over 3 days per week. The request was rejected on grounds that her role required at least 28 hours per week.
Her former employer gave no evidence to support it’s requirement for 28 hours per week, nor did it produce evidence of having considered alternative arrangements.
The tribunal ruled in her favour on grounds of constructive unfair dismissal, indirect sex discrimination and breach of the requirements for handling flexible working requests.
You can read more about the reasons behind the ruling, and what her employer should have done differently at Price Bailey.
Although it can be frustrating to have your flexible working request denied, it doesn’t mean you can’t compromise.
Your manager may not want you to leave and may offer to meet you in the middle somewhere. Also, you can make another request 12 months from the last one. Just because it was refused once, doesn’t mean it won’t be successful further down the line.
Most importantly, keep being professional and level headed throughout the process.
See Also: Can’t Work Due to No Childcare.
Employers must thoroughly consider any requests made to help an employee with childcare. This could be reduced hours, remote working or dropping certain days. Employers can refuse this request though if it falls under one of the 8 valid reasons for refusal.
The request should not be refused on discriminative grounds and if you feel it has been, you can appeal. There are strict criteria in place that an employer must follow when considering flexible working requests.