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Step 3: considering a request

Each flexible working request must be considered on its own merits and in balance with the needs of the service.

Departments are strongly recommended to take a positive approach to flexible working requests and should start exploring what is possible from a 'yes' point of view.

However, it is recognised that due to operational needs of the department, this might not always be possible.

Questions to consider

Consider the following questions when reviewing a flexible working request:

  • Is the workload achievable within the new arrangement?
  • Will the nature of work to be done change?
  • Can the work be done in the pattern of working requested?
  • Are there any health and safety considerations (e.g. lone working)
  • Does it comply with the working time regulations?
  • What are the current work patterns of other team members?
  • Are there any financial implications?
  • Will this help with staff morale/retention?
  • What are the implications if the request is refused? If refused, what is the justification?


It is important to consider if there are any potential discrimination issues when reviewing a flexible working request. For example:

  • If a member of staff has a disability
  • The request is made in relation to childcare
  • The request is made for religious reasons

Refusing a flexible work request could amount to direct/indirect discrimination or failure to make reasonable adjustments.

It is recommended that the divisional HR support team are contacted for more advice or guidance.

Trial period

A trial period is an option if there is any uncertainty on the impact a flexible working request will have on the department.

The staff member could be allowed to work under their requested flexible working arrangement for a trial period to see the outcome on the department.

Step 4 of the flexible working request process provides more information on trial periods.

Reasons for declining a request

Flexible working request can only be declined on the specific grounds detailed below. Managers may need to provide detailed evidence of the justification behind the refusal.

Reasons Considerations
The burden of additional costs How much would the request cost to implement and is there available budget for it? Is there a way to recoup costs through better coverage of service or increased outputs?
Detrimental effect on the ability to meet customer demand When are the busiest periods such as key clinics, service hours or busiest call times and how would the proposed request impact on delivery? Can a compromise or alternative solution be identified such as additional staff or alternative ways of working to address customer demand?
Inability to reorganise work among existing staff Could work could be reorganised amongst other staff without creating unreasonable pressure or unfair workloads on the wider team?
Inability to recruit additional staff What is the cost of recruiting additional staff against the potential cost of losing the experience and knowledge of the existing member of staff making the request? Could gaps be filled through current staff increasing their hours, or changing work patterns? Have attempts at external recruitment taken place to review if the gaps could be filled?
Detrimental impact on quality Reflect on the skills, knowledge and experience of other members of staff when considering this reason. Will there be an impact on the ability to meet demand due to this gap in skills or knowledge? Do you have members of the team with the potential to develop these skills via training?
Detrimental impact on performance Would the request have a positive or negative impact on the individual’s ability to carry out their role, performance or quality of work? Would a trial period be appropriate to understand impact on performance?
Insufficiency of work during the periods the member of staff proposes to work Is there sufficient work to be carried out during the periods an individual is requesting to work (i.e. are there time specific tasks such as meetings or clinics that are not able to take place during the requested hours)?. In comparison, are there deadline specific tasks that could be completed at any time?
Planned structural changes Are operational or structural changes planned? The request may need to be revisited once the changes have been implemented to ensure effective balance of the member of staff, patient experience, service delivery and work life balance of colleagues
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