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How to reply to a flexible working request

Acas guidance on flexible working requests is due to be updated in April 2024

A new draft of the Code of Practice on requests for flexible working has been published by the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas).

If approved by Parliament, this will replace the current code in April 2024, when the Flexible Working Act comes into force.

The new legislation will give employees the right to request flexible working on day one of employment.

Read more: Half of workers would ask for flexible work on day one

Acas senior policy advisor Simone Cheng said that, following the pandemic and the resulting change in working patterns, guidance needed to be updated.

She told HR magazine: “The existing Acas Code of Practice was published in 2014. Since then, we have seen substantial changes to the way that people work. 

“The pandemic saw many employers and employees adopt new approaches to working, and we know that many continue to see the benefits of working flexibly. 

“With legal changes also coming into force this spring, including a new day-one right to request, Acas is revising its Code of Practice.”


How to handle a flexible working request

The updated code states employees have a right to make a flexible working request in writing on their first day of their employment. The request must include a date, the changes requested, and the details of any previous requests.

An employee can make two requests in a 12-month period.

Employers must agree to the request unless there is a 'genuine business reason' not to, including:

  • the burden of additional costs,
  • an inability to reorganise work among existing staff or recruit additional staff,
  • a detrimental impact on quality, performance or ability to meet customer demand,
  • insufficient work available for the periods the employee proposes to work, and
  • planned structural changes to the employer's business.

Unless the employer decides to agree to the employee's written request in full, they should consult the employee before they make a decision through a meeting with a written record.

If the original request cannot be accepted in full, they should discuss if it is possible to secure some of the benefits that the original request sought.

A decision should be confirmed within two months of the original request, unless both parties agree to an extension, which should be recorded in writing.

If the employer rejects the employee's request, the written decision should clearly explain why. There is no statutory right for an employee to appeal but Acas recommends allowing them to do so.

The full draft Code of Practice is available here.

Read more: Flexible working bill receives royal assent