Flexible working - discussing your request with your employer
Once your employer has received your request for flexible working, they should arrange to discuss it with you as soon as possible. If they are happy to agree to the request, they may not need to discuss it with you.
This page tells you how the discussion will take place and whether you can be accompanied at the discussion. It gives some tips on how to conduct the discussion. It also tells you how to withdraw your request and when it will be deemed to be withdrawn.
Discussing your request for flexible working
The purpose of the discussion is to talk about the proposed change to your work pattern and to see how it can work. If your employer doesn’t think it will work, you can use the discussion to explore other work patterns. The time and place of the discussion should be convenient for both of you.
The following information is based on the Labour Relations Agency guidance on statutory requests. However, this information is useful to follow if you want to discuss a non-statutory request as well.
The discussion does not have to take place in a face-to-face meeting; it could be over the telephone. Labour Relations Agency guidance recommends that it take place somewhere private where it can’t be overheard by other workers.
You and your employer could agree to a trial period for the new arrangements to see whether they work in practice. You could then agree to a review of the situation at intervals to see whether the arrangements need to be changed.
Your employer may wish to speak to other workers who will be affected by the changed working pattern, to hear their views.
Can someone go with you to the discussion?
You have the right to be accompanied by a work colleague when meeting with your employer to discuss your application. They will have the right to speak at the meeting but not answer questions on your behalf. They can also talk to you about points raised during the meeting. Your companion can be a trade union representative.
During the discussion
The best outcome is that both you and your employer will come away with something positive. You should therefore both try to work towards this result.
At points during the discussion, you and your employer may disagree about parts of your application and how the changes you are requesting will affect the business.
If this happens, you should remain calm and focused, and think carefully about any points raised. Make sure that you come across as positive, open-minded and reasonable.
Even if you think your employer is being deliberately obstructive, or possibly discriminating against you, or is wrong about something, you should not lose your temper.
If your employer suggests something that you are not prepared for, don’t feel that you have to respond immediately. You could ask for a short break to discuss the suggestion with your companion. If you feel unable to agree to a proposal during the discussion, you can ask for a day or two to make a decision.
You could ask for the discussion to be recorded or minuted. If no one else is taking minutes, you or your companion could take notes.
Your employer may make a decision immediately, or offer to get back to you after thinking about your proposals.
What if you can’t attend the discussion
If you can’t attend the discussion, your employer should rearrange it. If you don’t attend the rearranged meeting, your employer should find out why. If you have made a statutory request and your employer considers your reasons for failing to attend are not reasonable, they may treat your application as withdrawn. This means that they will no longer consider your application and you may have to wait another year before you can make a new statutory request.
Your employer should find out why you failed to attend before notifying you of their decision to consider your request withdrawn.
If you have problems attending the meeting, try to let your employer know as soon as you can and suggest alternative dates that will work for you.
You decide to withdraw your application
If you change your mind about flexible working, you can tell your employer you want to withdraw your application at any point during the process.
It is best to do this in writing, but even if you don’t, your employer should usually confirm your decision to you in writing.
What happens after the discussion
Whether you made a statutory or a non-statutory request, your employer should consider it carefully and without discriminating against you, for example, by making an assumption based on a stereotypical view of gender roles, or imposing a blanket requirement which puts you at a disadvantage.
- accept your request and decide on a start date and any other action needed to set things up for your new working pattern, or
- confirm a compromise you both agreed at the discussion, for example, a temporary agreement to work flexibly, or
- reject your request and set out the clear business reasons and how these apply to your application. You should also get details of any appeal process.
They should let you know their decision in writing.