Flexible working: the law and best practice

Refusing a flexible working request


If you decide that you cannot accommodate any kind of flexible working for an employee, you must write to them:

  • stating which of the listed business ground(s) apply as to why you cannot accept the request
  • providing an explanation of why the business reasons apply in the circumstances
  • setting out the appeal procedure

This written notice must be dated.

The business grounds for rejecting a flexible working request

You can only reject a flexible working request on a limited number of set grounds.

These are:

  • planned structural changes
  • burden of additional costs
  • detrimental impact on quality
  • inability to recruit additional staff
  • detrimental impact on performance
  • inability to reorganise work amongst existing staff
  • detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand
  • insufficient work for the periods the employee proposes to work

Explaining your refusal of a flexible working request

In your written refusal of a flexible working request, you must explain why the business ground applies in the circumstances. If an employee understands why a business reason is relevant, they are more likely to accept the outcome and be satisfied that you have considered their application seriously - even if it isn't the outcome they wanted.

You do not have to go into a lot of detail, but you should include the key facts about why the business ground applies.

If you make a decision to reject a flexible working application based on incorrect facts, this will give the employee grounds to make a complaint to an industrial tribunal.

See form FW (C): Flexible Working Application Rejection Form in the Labour Relations Agency's (LRA) guidance and templates on flexible working: the right to request and duty to consider.