The United Kingdom Flexible Working Act

In 2002, the United Kingdom passed legislation granting employees with children under age 6 (or age 18 if the child has a disability) the right to request flexible work arrangements (FWA) from their employers. The law does not guarantee a right to a flexible working arrangement, or require the employer to say "yes" to an FWA request. Rather, it seeks to increase flexibility in UK workplaces by requiring a process for negotiation between employees and employers.

The law places the initial responsibility on the employee a) to propose a new work arrangement and b) to explain its impact on the employer, in writing. The employee and employer meet within 28 days of the request to consider the request together and the employer must respond to the employee's request in writing within fourteen days of the meeting. The employer may refuse the request for a range of business reasons such as cost, inability to reorganize work among existing staff, or detrimental impact on quality and performance.

The Flexible Working Act provides a limited right of appeal to an employment tribunal or arbitrator when the employee and employer are unable to reach an agreement. Importantly, employees may appeal an employer's failure to follow the mandated procedure or an employer's reliance on incorrect facts in reaching its decision. But, an employee may not file a complaint simply because she or he disagrees with the decision reached by an employer, and the reviewing tribunal or arbitrator is not permitted to overturn the employer's business judgment by ordering the employer to grant a flexible working request.

In June 2006, the Flexible Working Act was extended to allow "carers" generally to request flexibility. These new provisions will go into effect in April 2007.

Further Information

  • United Kingdom, Department of Trade and Industry, Green Paper on Work and Parents: Competitiveness and Choice (December 7, 2000)
  • United Kingdom, Department of Trade and Industry, Government Response to the Recommendation from the Work and Parents Taskforce (2001)