Change to working hours

Do I have to agree to a request to change an employees working hours?

An employee has recently asked to change their working hours?

  • Do I have to agree to this?
  • Do I have to follow any procedure?

Since June 2014 any employee with more than 26 weeks service is entitled to make a request for flexible working hours. This would include changes to working hours or working arrangements, including homeworking.

It is important to note that the right is only to request flexible working – it is not a right to be given flexible working.

The request should set out the flexible working arrangements that the employee is seeking. In addition the request should also address any effect of the requested arrangement.

Once you have received a request you must follow a reasonable procedure in deciding whether to agree to it. The statutory requirement is that you must notify the employee of your decision within three months of the request being made (unless the employee agrees to an extended period).

If you are happy to grant the application then you can respond to the employee confirming that you have accepted the request. You should also confirm to the employee that this has the effect of permanently changing the terms and conditions of employment. As such, if they wish to revert to their original working pattern they will need to wait for a period of 12 months and then make a further application for flexible working.

If you are unable to agree to the employee’s request you should arrange a meeting with the employee. During this meeting you can discuss the request with the employee. It may be that you are able to agree to part of the request or it may be that you are able to agree to alternative arrangements. If that is the case then, following the meeting, you should write to the employee confirming the amended arrangements.

If you are unable to agree to any aspect of the employee’s requests then you must write to them confirming that this is the case and setting out the reason for the refusal. You are only able to reject a flexible working request on one of the following grounds: –

  • the burden of additional costs
  • a detrimental effect on an ability to meet customer demand
  • an inability to reorganise work among existing staff
  • an inability to recruit additional staff
  • a detrimental impact on quality
  • a detrimental impact on performance
  • insufficiency of work during those periods the employee proposes to work
  • planned structural changes

Although there is no statutory obligation on an employer to provide a right of appeal against the outcome of a flexible working request, ACAS suggested that it is good practice to do so.

Care should be taken in imposing a complete ban on flexible working as this may amount to an indirect sex discrimination. For example, if you ban any part-time working at all this arrangement is likely to put women at a disadvantage given that women tend to be the primary carers for children and may not be able to arrange childcare to cover up full-time hours. Each application for flexible working should therefore be considered on its own merits and any refusal must be justified.

If you have any queries about this or any other aspect of employment law please do not hesitate to contact me on 01789 336 957 or

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