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The application process for flexible working 

This page outlines the key steps in the application process for flexible working

Application process


The application can be made by letter, e-mail or on a form provided by the organisation.  The easiest method for staff to apply is to use the form FW(A) available from the BERR website

Employers need to consider the following areas:

  • Information required.
  • Frequency of applications.
  • Processing the application.
  • Making a decision.

Information required 

An employee's application should set out their desired working pattern and how they believe their employer can accommodate it.  For an application to be valid, it must be dated, in writing and contain the following information:

  • that it is being made under the statutory right to make a flexible working request
  • confirm that they have, or expect to have, caring responsibility for a child or adult in need or care
  • confirm their relationship with the child or adult in question – for more details see the Business link
  • the flexible working pattern that they are applying for, and what effect, if any, they think the proposed change may have on your business and how you can deal with any such effect
  • the date they would the change to start
  • whether they have made any applications to you before and, if so, when.

Frequency of applications

Employees can make one application every 12 months even if the second request is for a different caring responsibility. For example, an employee wishing to make a second request to care for an adult would still have to wait 12 months, even if their first request was to care for a child.  Each ‘year’ runs from the date the first application was made.

Processing the application

All requests for statutory flexible working must be given serious consideration with the aim of deciding whether the organisation can accommodate the requested changes. Statutory procedure recommends that:

  • the receipt of the request is acknowledged
  • a meeting with the employee to discuss it, is organised within 28 days of receiving the request.  If it is not possible within 28 days, you may - with the employee’s agreement - extend this time but going over the time limit without their agreement, is a breach of procedure. Requests can be agreed on the basis of the application alone, if all parties are in complete agreement on the proposed arrangements
  • if the application is incomplete (and therefore invalid) you can return it for completion and start the process as soon as a valid request is received
  • if the applicant refuses to provide all the information required you may treat the application as withdrawn - they will be unable to reapply for 12 months from the date of the first application.

Making a decision

Following the request for flexible working, you should meet to discuss the requirement in more detail.  The meeting should cover if and how the request for flexible working can be accommodated and if not, if there a compromise.  The employee has the right to be accompanied by a companion, trade union representative or work colleague.  You must:

  • pay both the employee and their companion for the time off from their normal working duties to attend the meeting
  • notify an employee of your decision within 14 days of the meeting or discuss it with the individual, if you need more time.

There are three options for employers to consider:

  • accept an employee's flexible working request - you can use the form FW(B) on Business Link website
  • offer a trial period for the proposed working pattern – to be reviewed after an agreed period or trialled before the formal request for flexible working is made
  • if there really is no alternative, refuse the application for flexible working.

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Julian Topping

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