Right to request flexible working extended to all employees

Implementation date: 30 June 2014

The Children and Families Act 2014 (partly commenced by the Children and Families Act 2014 (Commencement No.3, Transitional Provisions and Savings) Order 2014 (SI 2014/1640)) extends the right to request flexible working, which currently applies to employees who have children under the age of 17 (18 if a child is disabled) or who are carers, to all employees.

Key details

The right to request a flexible pattern of work is amended by:

  • extending the right to request flexible working to all employees (not just those with parental responsibility for a child, or caring responsibilities for an adult);
  • replacing the requirement for the employer to deal with the request in accordance with the statutory procedure with a requirement to "deal with the application in a reasonable manner"; and
  • requiring the employer to notify the employee of its decision within a "decision period" of three months of the application (or longer if this is agreed).

The 26-week qualifying period for employees to make a request for flexible working is retained. The Government has also decided to keep the restriction that means that employees can make only one flexible working request in any 12-month period.

Acas launched a consultation on a statutory code of practice that sets out the principles that employers should follow when managing requests under the extended right to request flexible working. The Code of Practice (Handling in a Reasonable Manner Requests to Work Flexibly) Order 2014 (SI 2014/1665) brings the code of practice into force. The code provides that employers should do the following:

  • Arrange to talk to the employee as soon as possible after receiving his or her written request (unless the intention is to approve the request).
  • Allow the employee to be accompanied by a work colleague at any discussion.
  • Discuss the employee's request with him or her, where possible in private.
  • Inform the employee of the decision in writing as soon as possible.
  • If the employee's request is granted, or granted with modifications, discuss with the employee how and when the changes might best be implemented.
  • If the employee's request is rejected, ensure that the rejection is for one of the business reasons permitted by legislation and allow the employee to appeal it.
  • Consider and decide on all requests, including any appeals, within a period of three months from initial receipt, unless an extension is agreed with the employee.

Acas has produced a separate non-statutory guide that provides good practice guidance for employers, beyond the scope of the statutory code of practice.

The Flexible Working Regulations 2014 (SI 2014/1398) prescribe the 26-week qualification requirement and the form that an application for flexible working must take.

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Employment law manual > Family-friendly rights > Right to request flexible working > Future developments provides further information on the extension of the right to request flexible working.