What employers need to know about flexible working hours

As of last year all employees now have the right to request flexible working hours if they have been working with you for over 26 weeks. Flexible working hours count as any working pattern that deviates from the standard 9-5. For example: working from home, flexi-time, and shift work.

As an employer it’s important that you manage any requests for flexible working hours correctly so as to avoid any potential legal action. The legislation states that employers need to handle requests in a ‘reasonable manner’ – this means that you need to react to requests in way that’s fair to the employee.

Acting in a ‘reasonable manner’

To begin with you need to respond to each request as soon as practically possible. This should be in the form of a meeting with the employee where you discuss the hours they would like to change to and the reason why they would like to change.

On receiving a request you have a three month time limit in which you need to give an answer. This can be longer if agreed with the employee.

When deciding whether to grant a request, you need weigh up the advantages to the employee against any adverse effects it may have on your business. Under the law any reason you give for not granting flexible working hours needs to be considered a fair business reason. ACAS have published guidelines on what are considered fair business reasons here.

If you are happy for an employee to change to flexible working hours then you need to inform them and arrange for the terms and conditions of their contract to be updated. However if you choose to reject the request you need to be sure you are doing so for ‘fair business reasons’ or you may leave yourself at risk of legal action. If in doubt you should seek advice from a HR professional.

Benefits of flexible working hours

It’s important to remember that though this may seem like a bit of a HR headache, flexible working hours can be a huge benefit to your business. It gives employees the opportunity to work hours which best suite them and their lifestyles. Therefore making them feel more comfortable and happy in their roles. For a business this can result in improved efficiency, better customer service, and better staff retention. It’s also a great way of attracting new employees.

And with an ever increasing array of communication options and cloud based computing solutions, employees who choose to work from home or a cafe are no longer any less in touch with their co-workers than if they were sitting in the desk next to them.

If you’d like further advice on managing requests for flexible working hours within your business, contact our HR team on 0161 476 8276 or email

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Posted 18th February 2015

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