New research suggests that City firms are becoming less rigid in their approach to flexible working, but how far will the rules bend?

Flexible working is no longer the preserve of working parents. Since June 2014, anyone with over 26 weeks employment is eligible to request a flexible working pattern. Of course, that doesn't mean that employers are obliged to agree and there are a broad range of 'business reasons' for refusing, but any refusal must be considered and reasoned.

Flexible working requests can include reduced days or hours, compressed hours, home-working or any other type of flexible arrangement.

Any request that is accepted will make a permanent change to the employment contract, so if the employee or the employer wants to agree a temporary change then an agreement may be reached. An alternative proposal can also be suggested if the original request can not be accommodated.

Employers can only refuse a request if there is a business reason for doing so. Such reasons are:

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

With such a broad range of reasons, it is easy to say that all requests can probably be justified, but this really misses the point. Flexible working can benefit an organisation as much as the employee and a sensible approach should always be followed, not only because there is a statutory obligation to do so. Employees value flexible working above other benefits and we all know that a happy workforce is a (more) productive one too.