Flexible Working: The Right to Request and Duty to Consider

Under provisions set out in the Employment Rights (Northern Ireland) Order 1996 and regulations made under it, all employees have a statutory right to ask their employer for a change to their contractual terms and conditions of employment to work flexibly.

The statutory right is a ‘right to request’ and not a right to be granted flexible working. The employee must have worked for their employer for 26 weeks continuously at the date the application is made and they can only make one statutory request in any 12 month period.

Employees who have been employed for less than 26 weeks, agency workers and office holders do not have a statutory right to request flexible working. Nevertheless, employers may still wish to consider a request from these groups as flexible working can bring business benefits as well as benefits to the individual.

Before 5th April 2015 the right only applied to the parents of children under 17 or 18 in the case of parents of disabled children or to those caring for an adult. Now any eligible employee can apply to work flexibly for any reason.

This advisory guide has been designed to provide advice for employers and employees about how the right to request flexible working operates and the duty on employers to consider requests seriously. It details the rights and responsibilities of all parties. A series of forms based on best practice is reproduced at Annex B of this guidance to aid the employee in making their application and the employer when considering their request.

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Last updated: 14 September 2019