flexible work agreement being signed

Flexible Working Request Declined, What Are My Options?

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If your flexible working request has been declined, it can be a bitter pill to swallow. You’re likely wondering what to do next. What are your options? Do you look for a new job? Do you continue to work in your current role and make do with the current situation? While you feel like you are out of options currently, you aren’t. Below, we’re going to look at the reasons why your flexible working request may have been declined and then the choices you have going forward.

There are some differences depending on if you make a statutory (under the requirements defined in the law) or non-statutory request. Deciding which path to take will depend on what policies your company has for flexible working, so understand these.  In some instances, a company’s policy on flexible working can be better for you than the legal requirement they must fulfil.  Common examples of this are if you can make a request before being employed with them for 26 weeks or if you can reapply in less than a calendar year, e.g. six months.

Reasons To Decline A Flexible Working Request

Your employer can decline a flexible working request for a few reasons, including:

  •  additional costs to the company
  •  performance may suffer
  •  quality of work may be affected
  •  structural changes within the business
  •  the reorganisation of work isn’t possible
  •  not being able to keep up with customer demand
  •  they won’t be able to recruit new staff to make up the hours

When your employer declines a flexible work request, they should provide a clear explanation of why they have. The reason should be similar or the same as those above. It should not be discriminatory, for example you shouldn’t be declined because you don’t have children or because you are a women. This is only against the law if the reason the application for flexible working was declined is for those reasons. If that’s the case, there must be evidence to back that up, it cannot just be a feeling. Citizens Advice covers discrimination law further in their excellent article: flexible working – discrimination. Your employer should also provide you with details of their appeal process. Having a clear explanation of the reason your request was declined will help you during the appeal process.

Your Options After A Flexible Working Request Is Rejected

Infographic showing options if your flexible working request is declined
Flexible Working Request Declined Options

Follow appeal process

When an employer denies any request, it’s good practice for them to allow the matter to be discussed further. It’s important you bring updated information to the appeal and not simply replay the same information in the request. If they have given you an explanation as to why your request was denied, and you now have further information, the appeal process is the perfect place to bring this up. If you feel your employer didn’t follow their own policies with your flexible working request, you can also bring this up here.

It’s a good idea to put the appeal in writing, either as an email or letter but discuss this with your employer. They may have a format or way they expect the information provided. If the appeal process is successful, your employer will need to confirm your new hours and duties and when the changes will take place in writing.

Concerns about a fair appeal

If you have an appeal meeting about your flexible working request, a third party can be present. In most cases, this is another manager from the company, but it needs to be someone that had no influence over the request in the first place and nothing to do with the outcome of your request. Basically, whether your request is approved or denied, shouldn’t matter to the third party. They should also have the authority to make the final decision. This means that the appeal process for flexible working hours, and anything else, is fair.

If you are concerned about getting an impartial review of your appeal request, ACAS offers an arbitration process where the third party is outside of your company. Whatever is recommended through the ACAS arbitration process is legally binding, so your employer must act on the outcome. Using arbitration in this way may limit your ability to go to an employment tribunal at a later date, so consider this carefully and possibly seek advice.

If your appeal is declined again, you do still have options.

Wait and reapply

Many businesses have a waiting period which means that you cannot apply for things like flexible working for a certain period after your request has been declined. If you followed the statutory request process, you cannot reapply for twelve months.

However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t research the matter further and come up with a clearer explanation as to why you would benefit from this flexibility during this time. This is an excellent time to create a clear, concise reason with all the facts available, taking into account the reason for the refusal they gave you as feedback. Once the wait-time is over, you can then move forward and reapply.

Look for positions advertised with flexible working

If your employer is adamant that flexible working is something they will never offer. Your position is too vital to the company to offer this, for example. It might be time to look for a new role. You could look within the business and ask for your employer’s help with finding a role that suits both of you. However, if your employer isn’t open to flexible hours at all, it might be time to look elsewhere. If you do decide to look at roles in other businesses, it’s a good idea to let them know about your situation. Discuss the possibilities of flexible working within their business and see how they feel. The last thing you want is to change your job and be in no better position than you were before.

Making a complaint

If your flexible working request has been declined unfairly or unjustly, a complaint could be your only option. The reasons above are all valid, rational motives why a flexible working request could be declined. If you feel your request was declined unfairly, or you weren’t given a just reason, you can file a complaint. As we said, your employer should explain their reasoning. If they don’t, it makes it very difficult to appeal their decision.

If you feel there wasn’t a good reason why your flexible working request wasn’t approved. Or if you think that discrimination played a role in any way, a complaint can be made. An informal complaint is generally the best first course of action, to see if there is any better reasoning provided by your employer.  Your company may have a process for this but in most cases, it will simply be a discussion with your manager.  Citizens advice have some good examples of how to do this and what to think about as you decide what to do.

decision on a complaint about flexible working request being declined

Your companies should have a procedure about how to make a formal complaint.  Make sure you understand what it is and follow it correctly.  During the complaints process, you should provide as much detail as you can. Provide information about your flexible working request, why you filed it etc. Then provide any further information about your flexible working request that wasn’t mentioned in the first claim. Also, make it clear why you believe that the business hasn’t followed their policies and why you believe there has been discrimination or an incorrect decision. If this is unsuccessful and you still feel that you haven’t been treated fairly, an employee tribunal is the final option. Think about getting some advice either through their guides or by calling Citizen Advice, it’s a big step and one you want to be fully informed about it.

Whichever step you take with your request being declined, you must keep calm throughout the process. Calmer heads really do prevail in these situations. If you go in guns blazing, your employer may not take you seriously. If you have a valid reason why you feel flexible working will suit your situation, make it clear to your employer. Explain your situation during the appeals process, and even the complaints process if it gets that far. Make them aware of your situation and how flexible working hours will allow you to stay productive while working flexible hours. Of course, your employer can still decline your request. However, giving them as much information as possible about your situation and how flexible working hours may help it can greatly increase your chances of getting your request accepted.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Can I refuse a flexible working request?

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Your employer can refuse your flexible working request if they believe it will have a negative impact on the business. Often cited reasons to reject a request include increased costs for the company, negative impact to the performance or quality of work, not being able to service the customer or meet their demand in the same way, and if the business is planning to restructure.

How long do you have to respond to a flexible working request?

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For a statutory flexible working request, your employer must provide a decision within three months unless they agree that it will take longer with the employee.  Employers define their own timelines for non-statutory flexible working requests that are often quicker.  You should check the companies flexible working policy or ask HR if they have a timeline for the request process.

How do I appeal a flexible working rejection?

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Compile the reasons for your appeal using information given in the explanation of your rejection. It’s essential you provide new information in the appeal, not just repeat your initial request. Provide this in writing to your employer using the process they follow, talk with HR first if you have questions.

In Summary

If your flexible working request has been declined, you have a few options:

  1. You can follow your company’s appeal process.
  2. Wait and reapply after the cooling-off period.
  3. Look for other positions within the company or externally that have flexible working hours.
  4. Make a complaint if you feel there is a valid reason to do so.

Whichever step you take after your flexible working request has been declined, stay calm, explain your situation and your next request may get accepted.

Note: the info provided above is based on the UK’s position on flexible working.

Eric Evans

Eric Evans

Technologist & co-founder of DuoMe

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Thinking about returning to work, but can’t work full-time?  Currently working, but want to make time for other things?  Flexible working helps you shape the hours, location, and scope of your work to fit the life you want to lead.  

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