My flexible working request has been denied. Now what?

Here we have insights for employees and employers navigating denied flexible working requests – an issue that is becoming increasingly prevalent.

Our experts

We are a team of writers, experimenters and researchers providing you with the best advice with zero bias or partiality.
Written and reviewed by:

As of April 6 2024, employees in the UK will gain the right to request flexible working arrangements from day one of a new job, thanks to the government’s Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Bill. This policy aims to improve work-life balance, and accommodate the diverse needs of the modern workforce.

Despite this progressive step, recent studies reveal that approximately 30% of female employees, in particular,  have already faced rejection when requesting flexible working arrangements, according to People Management.

If your flexible working request has been denied, don’t lose hope—there are proactive steps you can take to address the situation.

Why did you get a no?

There are several reasons why an employer might deny a request for flexible working arrangements, even if it seems reasonable to you. One common factor is the potential cost implications for the business. If accommodating your request would require significant financial investment, such as hiring additional staff or implementing new technology, the employer may hesitate to approve it. 

Additionally, if your proposed schedule conflicts with essential business operations or client needs, the employer may find it difficult to justify the arrangement. It’s essential to understand that while flexible working can benefit both employees and employers, there are practical considerations that employers must weigh when making these decisions.

What are your next steps if you get denied?

There are a few simple ways you can assess and get better clarity on the situation:

Understand the reasons behind the “no”

Firstly, ask your employer for detailed reasons behind the denial in writing. Understanding their perspective can provide clarity on the decision and help you determine if there’s room for negotiation. Wri  Having to explain their rationale may give some employers the time to rethink, this key right as an employeer, and at the very least construct a reasonable, stress-tested response.

Consider alternative arrangements

If your original request isn’t feasible for your employer, you can explore alternative solutions. For example, flexible working could simply involve more predictable working hours, particularly for people in jobs such as those on rotas or zero-hours contracts, where hours prohibit them from making plans outside of work and having a set schedule for greater peace of mind.

Propose different schedules or arrangements that could meet both your needs and the company’s operational requirements.

Appeal process

Many companies have an appeals process in place for denied flexible working requests (and if they don’t, suggest they put one in place). Explore this option, ensuring you follow any specific procedures outlined by your employer.

The appeal process provides employees with a formal avenue to challenge the decision to deny their flexible working request. This typically involves submitting a written appeal outlining reasons why the request should be reconsidered. 

It’s important to adhere to any specific timelines and procedures set forth by the employer to ensure your appeal is properly considered. Additionally, gathering supporting evidence or demonstrating how the proposed arrangement could benefit both parties may strengthen your case during your appeal.

Seek legal advice

If you believe your request was unfairly denied or if you suspect discrimination, you can consider seeking legal advice. Employment laws exist to protect your rights, and legal guidance can help you navigate your options.

Take it beyond your employer

Employees can bring a claim at an employment tribunal for failure to follow the process.  If a refusal can be shown to be a discriminatory act, there is the risk of uncapped compensation, and if the request relates to an employee’s disability, a refusal could be a failure to make a reasonable adjustment under The Equality Act 2010

Not every employer will agree with their employee’s enthusiasm for flexible working, but discrimination of any kind or not following the process can lead to employee disengagement or risks of Tribunal claims.

Evaluate your long-term goals

If you’re ever in a situation where seeking tribunal action seems inevitable, sometimes it can be better to take it as a strong incompatibility with the organisational culture or core company values, a sign to move on to something better.  

Legal action can be laborious and stressful, and most likely leave you and your employers with feelings of distrust, anger and resentment. If flexibility is non-negotiable for you, it might be worth exploring opportunities with companies that employee wellbeing

Considerations for employers when turning down a request

When faced with the decision to deny a flexible working request, employers must carefully consider various factors to ensure fairness and compliance with legal obligations. Here’s how to respond to a flexible working request as thoughtfully as possible as an employer:

Consider the business needs

If you can accurately state how the flexible working of the specific employee, in particular, would affect your cost of goods sold, profit margins, customer service or general business operations in a significantly negative way, you may be able to reject the request fairly.

Assess the impact of the requested changes on the business operations. While accommodating flexible working is beneficial, it should not compromise productivity or service delivery.

Be fair and consistent

Ensure decisions regarding flexible working requests are made fairly and consistently across the organisation. Inconsistent treatment can lead to employee dissatisfaction and potential legal challenges.

For example, if one employee’s flexible working request is denied due to operational constraints, similar requests from other employees in comparable roles should be assessed using the same criteria. This approach fosters transparency and trust within the workforce, reducing the likelihood of grievances and legal disputes stemming from perceived unfair treatment.

Explore alternative solutions with your employee

If the original request cannot be accommodated, explore alternative arrangements that could meet both the employee’s needs and the business objectives. There are plenty of potential flexible working arrangements to choose from.

Best ways to maximise a happy outcome for both parties

To ensure a mutually beneficial outcome, prioritising open communication and flexibility is key for both employers and employees:

  • Keep an open dialogue: foster open and honest communication between employers and employees. Encourage dialogue to understand each other’s perspectives and explore mutually beneficial solutions.
  • Stay flexible in approach: both parties should approach the situation with a willingness to be flexible. This might involve compromising on certain aspects to reach a solution that works for everyone.
  • Propose a trial period: consider implementing trial periods for new flexible working arrangements. This allows both parties to assess the feasibility and impact before making a permanent decision.
  • Assess and evaluate: schedule regular reviews to assess the effectiveness of the flexible working arrangements and make adjustments as necessary. This ensures that both parties remain satisfied with the arrangement over time.


The right to request flexible working represents a significant step towards creating more inclusive and accommodating workplaces, and the denial of such requests can be disappointing and challenging for employees. 

By coming to an agreement about the reasons behind the denial, exploring alternative solutions, and maintaining open communication, employees and employers can work together to find mutually satisfactory outcomes. 

Ultimately, prioritising understanding and compromise can in most cases lead to happier, more productive workplaces for all parties involved.

Written by:
Stephanie Lennox is the resident funding & finance expert at Startups: A successful startup founder in her own right, 2x bestselling author and business strategist, she covers everything from business grants and loans to venture capital and angel investing. With over 14 years of hands-on experience in the startup industry, Stephanie is passionate about how business owners can not only survive but thrive in the face of turbulent financial times and economic crises. With a background in media, publishing, finance and sales psychology, and an education at Oxford University, Stephanie has been featured on all things 'entrepreneur' in such prominent media outlets as The Bookseller, The Guardian, TimeOut, The Southbank Centre and ITV News, as well as several other national publications.

Leave a comment

Leave a reply

We value your comments but kindly requests all posts are on topic, constructive and respectful. Please review our commenting policy.

Back to Top