We look at workplace flexibility and employee requests.  What to do if an employee asks to make a change to their current working conditions.


Joanne Skilton’s article,  HR trends to watch out for in 2021 picks out six key areas to watch out for this year.  One of these is workplace flexibility.  The pandemic forced many organisations to adapt and adopt new working practices.  Many businesses asked their employees to stay at home and work remotely.   For some this proved a successful and popular way of working.   However, as restrictions on face-to-face contact and travel could relax, will employees and business want to carry on working this way?


A survey of 2,000 workers by Barnett Waddingham found 33% of respondents would consider looking for alternative employment if their employer did not continue with workplace flexibility beyond the pandemic.   More information about the report and its findings is in Third of employees will quit if flexibility is not continued after lockdown.


Employers are also looking at how and where staff might work in the future.   In the People Management article Do we need the office? a number of businesses were asked about workplace flexibility.   The article looks at possible alternatives to all staff coming into the office on a full time basis.


The BBC report some large and medium sized organisations also seem open to a ‘hybrid model’ of working.   This is when the employer offers a mixture of home and office working.  The staff are encouraged to work from home regularly 2 or 3 days a week.


Workplace Flexibility and Employee Requests

Not just working from home


Workplace Flexibility or Working from home/or remotely is not the only type of ‘Flexible working’  request employees can make.  The term can be used to describe any work arrangement outside of company offices or standard hours including:-


  1. Telecommuting – An employee works full-time, but only comes into the office two or three days each week and works remotely for the rest.
  2. Part-time working– An employee works less than full-time, standard hours.
  3. Condensed Hours – An employee covers their standard working hours in less working days. For example,  four-10 hour days, with Friday off – to total a 40 hour working week.
  4. Job sharing– Two part-time workers share one full-time job.
  5. Customised working hours – Workers choose their own hours. i.e. hours must be between 6am – 10pm.
  6. Flexi-time – There are ‘core hours’ i.e. between 10am – 4pm. Outside of these times, employees can choose when they work.


Employee Requests – Who can make them?


Any employee with 26 weeks service who has not made a request in the previous 12 months can make a request.  Although you may wish to hear employee requests from staff who have less than the required service.


The employee must make their request in writing and date it.   The request must give specific details about the change and include the following:

  • When the employee would like change to take effect.
  • Is the request a permanent or temporary change including any relevant dates.
  • An explanation about what effect, if any, the employee thinks the change will have on the employer.  Plus details of how these could be dealt with.
  • Whether the employee has previously made an application to the employer and, if so, when.


How to respond


On receiving a written request, you must make sure to consider it fairly.   Arrange to talk with your employee as soon as possible.  Allow them to be accompanied to any meetings.  Discuss with them other options or alternatives if you think the original request may not be possible.  Base your final decision on fact and not on personal opinion.


You must give the employee your decision within 3 months of receiving their request.  If you need more time to make a decision, you can extend the time limit if your employee agrees.


Making a Decision


When approving a request, confirm this in writing.  Issue a new “Principal Statement of Terms and Conditions of Employment”, or a “Variation to Contract” letter with the new details.

You may not be able to agree to the request.   In law, you can only turn the request down using the following valid business reasons :-

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


Resolving Issues


If your employee is unhappy with your final decision, they could appeal.   Should this happen carry out an appeal meeting with them to consider their grounds.  This may help you to resolve any issues your employee might have and reduce the chance of them raising a formal grievance.


Click here for the ACAS Code of Practice flexible working and employee requests.


For information about workplace flexibility and employee requests.   Or for guidance about individual requests, please contact us at Contact Solution22 – HR Consultancy Services.   Telephone 020 7549 1634 and ask to speak to Helen Ash.




Rob Gray People Management.   Do we need the office? 27 May 2021.

Joanne Skilton HR Review. HR trends to watch out for in 2021.   7th May 2021.

Calum Trenaman People Management.  Third of employees will quit if flexibility is not continued after lockdown. 26th May 2021.