If your employer refuses your flexible working request
Your employer should write to you to explain why they’ve turned down your request. They should also tell you about their appeals process if they have one.
It’s best to use your employer’s appeal process if you can. If your employer doesn’t have an appeals process, you can raise a grievance or you can ask them to review their decision. Check how to raise a grievance.
If your employer doesn’t change their decision, you might be able to take your employer to an employment tribunal.
You’ll have to work your normal hours until the situation is resolved - if you don’t, your employer could use it as a reason to dismiss you.
Check if you can apply to an employment tribunal
It’s free to apply to the employment tribunal, but the process can be quite long and stressful - consider it carefully before you start.
Your rights in the employment tribunal depend on whether your flexible working request was a ‘statutory request’ or an ‘informal request’. If you’re not sure what kind of request it was, check the rules about making a flexible working request.
If your employer refused a statutory request, you can take them to the employment tribunal if they:
- didn’t make a final decision about your request within 3 months - unless you agreed to a later deadline
- didn’t deal with your request in a reasonable way
- didn’t give you a valid reason for refusing your request
- discriminated against you by refusing your request
If your employer refused an informal request, you can only take them to the employment tribunal if they discriminated against you.
Check the time limit for the employment tribunal
You have 3 months minus 1 day to start the process of applying to the tribunal.
If you want to challenge your employer for discriminating against you, the time limit starts immediately.
If you want to challenge a decision about a statutory request for a different reason, the time limit starts when your employer made the final decision. If your employer has an appeal process and you used it, the final decision is the decision about the appeal.
If your employer didn’t make a final decision in time, the time limit starts at the deadline. The deadline is 3 months after you made the original request - unless you agreed to a later deadline.
Check if your employer made the final decision in time
Your employer has to make the final decision within 3 months of your request - unless you and your employer agree to a later deadline. If your employer offers an appeal process and you used it, the final decision is the decision about the appeal.
Check if your employer dealt with your request in a reasonable way
The employment tribunal will look at all the circumstances to decide if your employer dealt with your request in a reasonable way. Your employer should have considered your request carefully and discussed it with you if appropriate.
You can find out more about what counts as a reasonable way to deal with your request - check the Code of Practice for flexible working requests on the Acas website.
Check if your employer gave you a valid reason for refusing
Your employer must give you one of the following reasons for refusing your request:
- it would harm your performance in the job - or the performance of your colleagues
- it would cost the business money
- it would reduce quality or standards
- your employer would struggle to meet customer demand
- your employer would have trouble hiring extra staff to cover your work
- your employer would struggle to reorganise work among your colleagues
- there isn’t enough work to do at the times you want to work
- your employer is planning changes to the business structure and your request wouldn’t fit with the changes
If your employer didn’t give you one of these reasons, you can take them to the employment tribunal.
You can also take your employer to the tribunal if you can show their reason isn’t genuine. This can be difficult to prove.
Check if your employer discriminated against you
Your employer might have discriminated against you if they refused your request for reasons connected to who you are, for example because you’re a woman or disabled.
It might also be discrimination if they have a policy of refusing flexible working for everyone, but this has a bigger effect on you because of who you are.
For example, you might be able to show discrimination if:
- you have childcare or caring responsibilities
- you’re disabled and were asking for reasonable adjustments
If you think your employer has discriminated against you by refusing your request, you can make a discrimination claim.
If your employer dismisses you or treats you unfairly because of a request
If your employer dismisses you because you made a statutory request for flexible working, this is an automatically unfair dismissal. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been working for your employer. Check how to challenge your dismissal.
If your employer treats you unfairly because you made a statutory request for flexible working, this is called ‘subjecting you to a detriment’. Check what you can do if your employer subjects you to a detriment.