October 15, 2019

Eight Reasons for Refusing a Flexible Working Request

There is no doubt that striking the right balance between work and home life is a very important aspect of modern life. Employees today want more flexibility in the way that they work to enable them to juggle competing life demands.

However, flexible working doesn’t necessarily suit every business and in some circumstances, it may not be possible to agree to a request to work flexibly.

Can I refuse a flexible working request?

Employers have a legal obligation to deal with requests in a reasonable manner.

The following examples would not be reasonable grounds to refuse a flexible working request:

“The management team don’t like employees working part-time or working from home”.

“It doesn’t fit into our culture”.

Eight reasons for refusing a flexible working request

Employers should consider requests in a reasonable manner and can only refuse them if there is a good business reason for doing so. ACAS published a statutory code of practice on handling requests to work flexibly. The legislation permits an employer to refuse a flexible working request on eight business grounds:

1. The burden of additional costs

You can refuse a flexible working request if it will be a financial burden on your business. For example, if accepting a flexible working request meant that your business had to absorb additional costs of engaging with a recruitment agency or paying other employees to work overtime at a premium rate, you’re permitted to refuse the request.

2. An inability to reorganise work amongst existing staff

Do you employ staff with very specific skills? If one of these employees wanted to work flexibly how easy would it be for you to rearrange their work amongst existing staff? If the answer is “it isn’t” or “we tried and failed” then this is another legitimate reason for refusing a flexible working request.

3. An inability to recruit additional staff

Take the following scenario. An employee submits a flexible working request to leave an hour early everyday. How would you go about recruiting someone to work just one hour per day? It would of course be impractical and consequently this is a justified reason to refuse a flexible working request.

4. A detrimental impact on quality

A head of department or a customer-facing manager wishes to work two days per week. Will customers suffer because that employee is absent for three days of the working week? If you fail to recruit for the remaining three days and the reduced working hours would have a detrimental impact on your customers, you can refuse the request. This is a reason for refusal that we see quite often when customers call into our Advice Line.

5. A detrimental impact on performance

This one is straightforward. If it’s going to have a significant impact on an employee’s ability to carry out their role, the request should be rejected.

6. Detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand

To explain this, I’ll use an example I’ve recently seen in the hospitality sector. Most restaurants are busiest on Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings. If an employee submits a request to work on Mondays and Tuesdays only, this would prevent the business from meeting their customer demand during their busiest periods and a request can be refused on these grounds.

7. Insufficient work for the periods the employee proposes to work

I’ll use the same example of an employee at a restaurant requesting to work on a Monday and Tuesday only. If there isn’t sufficient work to be carried out during the periods an employee is requesting to work, you can refuse the request.

8. Planned structural changes to the business

If you’re going through a restructure or a redundancy, these are legitimate reasons to refuse a flexible working request.

Find out more in our ‘Embracing Flexible Working Practices: Made Easy’ webinar

I recently hosted a webinar on flexible working which covered everything from examples of flexible working arrangements to managing requests and relevant case law. You can watch a recording of the webinar here.

In addition, Moorepay customers who would like advice on any aspect of flexible working can contact our advice line on 0345 073 0240.

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About the author

Carl Hardcastle

About the author

Carl Hardcastle

Carl is an Employment Law Consultant. Both CIPD and legally qualified Carl undertakes all types of employment advice. He advises directors, HR executives and line managers on a daily basis, dealing with matters such as discipline, poor performance, sickness problems and the appropriate procedures to be followed. Carl often provides TUPE advice in relation to corporate transactions and has advised employers with regards to restrictive covenants. He has specific experience in Republic of Ireland employment law. Carl regularly presents seminars on a wide range of employment law issues. With over 20 years’ experience Carl enjoys giving pragmatic, robust and commercial advice.

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