Can an employer refuse a request for flexible working?

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Published on LexisPSL on 04/11/2014

The following Employment Q&A provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Can an employer refuse a request for flexible working?
  • Preliminary issues
  • Entitlement
  • Form of application
  • Flexible working patterns
  • Permitted grounds for refusal under ERA 1996
  • Disabled employees—duty to make reasonable adjustments
  • Discrimination issues
  • Competing requests
  • Temporary flexible working and trial periods
  • More...

The answer to this question will depend on:

  1. the circumstances of the particular employee

  2. the employer's reason(s) for wishing to turn down the request

For further information on flexible working applications generally, see our Practice Note Flexible working.

Preliminary issues

Changes to the flexible working regime that apply to applications made on or after 30 June 2014 mean that any qualifying employee can make a flexible working request, for any reason, not just childcare or caring-related reasons as previously. See Flexible working—Who is eligible to make a statutory request.

Check if the employer has a flexible working policy—if there is one, the employer should ensure that it is followed.

Ensure that any policy complies with the statutory procedure and that, even if there is no policy, the employer is aware of the statutory procedure and follows it. For further information, see Flexible working—Employer's response to statutory request.


The employer may reject the application if the individual making it is not entitled to do so. To be entitled to request flexible working, an individual must:

  1. be an employee (see Employee status)

  2. have at least 26 weeks' continuous service (see Continuity of employment)

  3. not have made an application for flexible working during the previous twelve months

The right is not available to members of the armed forces and (with one exception) to agency workers.

For further information, see Flexible working—Who is eligible to make

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