Flexible Working Applications

Employees will submit an application to their manager. You should discuss the request with your employee. It will help you get a better idea of what changes they are looking for and how they might benefit the council and the employee.

Employees can make 2 applications for flexible working in a 12 month period. If you have a candidate for recruitment, they can request to work flexibly as part of the recruitment process.

The whole process should be concluded within 2 months.

Considering flexible working applications

If you intend to approve the request then a consultation meeting is not needed but is helpful to allow you to discuss the application and implementation.

If you are unsure or are not agreeing to the employee's written request in full, you must consult the employee before you make a decision. You must invite the employee to a consultation meeting to discuss their request. A consultation meeting can help make sure that all relevant information is understood before a decision is made. It can also make clear whether a request may relate to a reasonable adjustment for an employee's disability.

This meeting should be held as soon as possible and within 14 days of receipt of the application. The employee has the option to be accompanied at this meeting. This can be a work colleague or Trade Union official.

It can help to talk about:

  • the change they're asking for
  • why they want the change
  • any problems you see with making the change
  • any other options, if the change is not possible

It's a good idea to hold the meeting somewhere private, where you can talk confidentially. If you cannot meet face to face, you could also discuss it over the phone or on a video call.

If your employee's request is not possible, there might be a way to find another option. Trying to find a compromise can help keep good working relationships and retain employees. You should talk to your employee and

  • explain why you cannot make the changes they initially requested; this must be linked to the reasons for refusal noted in refusing a request (below)
  • listen to their reasons for requesting the change
  • suggest any other possible options
  • ask if they have any ideas for other options


You should consider the request carefully looking at the benefits of the requested changes in working conditions for the employee and the council and weighing these against any adverse impact of implementing the changes. In considering the request you must not discriminate unlawfully against the employee.

Service delivery/provision should be maintained, or enhanced, through the flexible working arrangement requested. You should consider the benefits to the employee's work-life balance but also the impact on the overall team and operational service requirements.

There is no contractual entitlement for employees to have their request approved however you can only turn down a flexible working request if there's a valid business reason, the reasons for refusal are noted below. It’s important to make your decision based on facts and not opinion.

If you are rejecting a request, the outcome must be given in enough time for an appeal to take place within 2 months of the application.

There may be circumstances where you need more time to decide about the application, such as where a service review is imminent or ongoing or if you need to recruit to backfill the hours as the recruitment process can take around 8 weeks depending on the post and recruitment checks needed. You should discuss the timescale for any delay in the decision with your employee.

Your Service HR Business Partner will be able to offer advice and support as necessary.

Approving a request

If a request is approved, the agreed changes are a permanent change to the employee’s contract of employment. In exceptional circumstances, temporary arrangements can be agreed for up to 3 months for options such as Compressed Working and Part time.

You should discuss any arrangements with your employee that need to be made to facilitate the change and the expected timescales for this. You must arrange for the relevant HR Forms to be completed to ensure that both Payroll and HR are aware of the change and to allow Staffing & Recruitment to issue the amendment to their contract.

Refusing a request

If you are refusing a flexible working request, you must write to the employee with the reason this has been refused and explaining that the employee can discuss this with you in the first instance.

Where a request is to be refused, you should be aware that the reason must fall under one or more of the following headings:

  • Burden of additional costs
  • Inability to reorganise work with existing employees
  • Inability to recruit additional employees
  • Detrimental impact on quality
  • Detrimental impact on performance
  • Detrimental impact to meet customer demand
  • Insufficiency of work when employee proposes to work
  • Planned structural changes.

You should discuss this with your Head of Service.

The employee has the option to appeal against the decision through the Grievance Policy within 7 days of receipt of the outcome. The relevant timescales and process within the Grievance Policy will then apply.

Timescales for written response and outcome

You should provide your employee with a written response to their request advising them of the decision within 14 days of the consultation meeting.

This will be either:

  • Approval of the request or modifications discussed with the employee along with details of the conditions attached to the offer of alternative working arrangements. The employee will be required to provide written acceptance of the conditions attached to any offer of flexible working arrangements before this starts.
  • Refusal of the request. In this instance, the Manager will provide an explanation of the business reasons for the request not being supported as per above.

The law requires that all requests, including any appeals, must be considered and decided on within a period of two months from first receipt, unless you agree to extend this period with the employee. If you need more time, you can only extend the time limit if your employee agrees.

Your responsibilities:

Moving to more flexible working arrangements will involve new ways of managing employees, especially in relation to communication. Managers are expected to:

  • Discuss flexible working proposals openly and honestly to try to reach an arrangement that suits the employee and the service
  • Give due consideration to flexible working requests and seek to accommodate employees where possible, subject to service provision requirements
  • Advise employees of any difficulties arising from their flexible working arrangements, so that these can be considered

Reasonable adjustment requests from employees with disabilities

If an employee seeks a reasonable adjustment for their disability through a request for flexible working, we must consider this in line with our legal obligations under the Equality Act 2010. We must make reasonable adjustments to remove any disadvantage related to a person’s disability. The legal obligation to make reasonable adjustments is separate to the legal obligation to consider a request for flexible working.

You should encourage employees to make any type of request that relates to a disability as a reasonable adjustment request.

The main reasons for this are that:

  • a reasonable adjustment request is often the fastest and most effective way to address a disability-related request
  • equality law might require you to respond to a disability-related request faster than your flexible working process allows
  • disability-related requests fall under equality law – you should consider them separately from flexible working requests

If an employee makes a flexible working request and you think it might relate to disability, ask them if this is the case. You should do this sensitively, such as in a private chat.

If it does relate to disability, see if they want to make a reasonable adjustment request instead. If they do not, or if the request is not related to disability, continue to treat it as a flexible working request.

When someone's talking about their disability and the support they need, you should:

  • listen to the person and try to understand how their disability affects them
  • not make assumptions
  • consider the person's specific situation

Considering a reasonable adjustment request

Both the manager and the employee can suggest what reasonable adjustments might help.

You should take the lead from the person asking for reasonable adjustments. This is because they might have a better idea of what changes would be helpful to them.

Some adjustments might be straightforward to discuss and agree together.

You can consider getting medical advice if you need help to decide what adjustments are needed. For example, you could agree with a disabled employee to:

  • get an occupational health assessment
  • ask the person's doctor for advice

An employer does not have to make adjustments that are unreasonable. However, we should still find other ways to support the disabled person.

Someone's reasonable adjustments might need to change over time. They should talk with their manager regularly to review their adjustments and keep a record of what they've asked for and what's been put in place.


What if there's more than one request

  • You should look at each flexible working request in the order you received them. Flexibility means something different to everyone and the requests may be complimentary to each other.

If you get the same request from different employees

  • If you approve a flexible working request for one employee, you do not necessarily have to approve the same request for other employees.
  • You should make a decision based on whether the council can support the change they've requested.