In recent years, many employers have begun to embrace flexible working arrangements, allowing employees more options when it comes to how and where they work.

With a series of legal changes taking effect in April 2024, it’s crucial for those interested in flexible working to understand their rights and options when requesting it from their employer.

In this article, we explain what flexible working is and what the incoming changes mean for you.

What is flexible working?

Flexible working refers to arrangements that allow employers to adjust how, when and where they work to better suit their needs. Common examples include working from home or a satellite office, or changing when you start and finish work.

Some companies might offer flexible working by default, such as letting you choose whether to work from home or in the office, or set your own working schedule. However, if your company does not provide flexible working arrangements automatically, you have the legal right to make a request for this by submitting a statutory application.

You can use a statutory application to request a change to:

  • Where you work
  • The number of hours you work
  • The specific days you work
  • Your daily start and end times

Employers must consider statutory applications, and deal with them in a “reasonable manner”, carefully considering the potential benefits and drawbacks. They can reject an application, but they must provide legitimate reasons – for example, that flexible changes might affect the business financially, inconvenience other employees or make running the business more difficult.

Why apply for flexible working?

There are a number of reasons why people apply for flexible working arrangements. Employees often do this because they are juggling family or other commitments.

Common reasons for applying for flexible working arrangements include:

  • Caregiving responsibilities, such as caring for children or an elderly relative. Or, for example, you need to leave work early to pick your children up from school.
  • It is difficult or expensive for you to go into the main office every day, and you would find it significantly easier to work from home or from a satellite office.
  • You wish to phase your retirement by gradually reducing your work hours. Read more about phasing your retirement in our guide How can I phase my retirement?
  • You are studying or working another job at the same time, and would like to change your working hours or days to accommodate this.

If you have a disability or condition that impacts your ability to work under standard conditions, your situation differs. In such cases, employers are legally obligated to make “reasonable” adjustments to provide ‘reasonable accommodations’ to allow you to perform your role. You’ll find more details on disability accommodations later in this article.

What are the key changes to flexible working laws in 2024?

New flexible working regulations will come into force on April 6 2024, giving employees more power to make requests and requiring quicker responses from employers:

  • Employees will be able to request flexible working arrangements from their first day of employment, rather than having to wait 26 weeks.
  • The annual limit on flexible working requests increases from one to two per employee a year.
  • Employers must respond to applications within three months, rather than two.
  • If rejecting a request, employers must consult directly with the employee directly to discuss potential solutions.
  • Employees will no longer be required to explain how the arrangement will work, though it may help their application to do so.

How can I apply for flexible working?

There isn’t an official form for making an application for flexible working. You simply email or write a letter to your employer, stating clearly what flexible working changes you would like implemented. You should include as much detail as you can, including details of any previous applications you have made. It may help your application to suggest ways to reduce any negative impact that your flexible working arrangements could have on the business.

What happens if my flexible working application is rejected?

Companies are no longer required to offer a statutory appeals process for rejected flexible working applications. However, your employer may still have an internal appeals process in place. If they do, you can use this avenue to appeal a rejection if you believe it was unfair or unsubstantiated.

Alternatively, you can file a complaint with an employment tribunal if you think that your application was mishandled, rejected based on incorrect facts, or was not addressed within the deadline. You can also complain if you think you are being treated poorly at work as a consequence of making a flexible working request. Read about making a complaint at

Can I request changes to my work if I have a disability?

Under the Equality Act, employers are legally required to make reasonable adjustments so that you are not disadvantaged at work. These include physical changes such as installing wheelchair ramps, but may also cover flexible working hours or working from home if these changes would make your job easier.

Whether these adjustments are considered reasonable or necessary will depend on the kind of job you do, so flexible arrangements are not necessarily guaranteed. However, employers must carefully review and consider requests related to an employee’s disability. Read more in our article How to get support at home and work if you have a disability.