Guide

Flexible working: the law and best practice

Flexible working: extensions to time limits and withdrawals

There may be occasions where you need more time than the formal statutory procedure allows in order to reach your decision on an employee's request for flexible working.

There are also situations where you may treat the employee's application as withdrawn.

Extension of time limits to consider a flexible working request

There are two circumstances where the time limits for giving decisions and raising appeals on flexible working requests can be extended.

Through agreement by the employer and the employee
You might need to extend time limits where, for example, you need more time to consult with other staff or you agree to a trial period to check the suitability of the proposed flexible working arrangement.

The written record of the agreement must:

  • be dated
  • be sent to the employee
  • specify what period the extension relates to
  • specify the date on which the extension is to end

Through absence of the employer
An automatic extension applies where the individual who normally deals with the flexible working request is absent from work due to leave or illness. Where this is the case, the 28 day period within which a meeting shall be held to discuss a flexible working application commences on the day the individual returns to work, or 28 days after the application is made, whichever is the sooner.

There are no other circumstances where an automatic extension to any period applies.

See form FW (F): Extension of Time Limit in the Labour Relations Agency’s (LRA) guidance and templates on flexible working: the right to request and duty to consider.

Treating a flexible working application as withdrawn

There are three circumstances where you can treat an employee's application for flexible working as withdrawn:

1. The employee unreasonably refuses to provide the information you need to consider their application. You should confirm in writing the withdrawal of the application.

2. The employee twice fails to attend a meeting to discuss a request (or a meeting to discuss an appeal) without reasonable cause. You should confirm in writing the withdrawal of the application. However, you should be flexible where - on both occasions - the employee cannot attend due to unforeseen circumstances.

3. The employee decides to withdraw the application. They should notify you as soon as possible in writing. If you don't receive written notification, ask them to confirm their intention verbally and then confirm this in writing. The employee will not be eligible to make another application for 12 months.

In all circumstances a written record must be made. See form FW(G): Notice of Withdrawal in the LRA's guidance and templates on flexible working: the right to request and duty to consider.