SOAS University of London

Human Resources

Guidelines for Managers on Flexible Working

These Guidelines for Managers are in the form of Frequently Asked Questions.  Click on the relevant question below to take you to our advice.

The Guidelines (pdf) are also available to download .

Frequently Asked Questions



Why do I need to follow this bureaucratic procedure? 

The School’s Flexible Working Procedure is directly derived from employment legislation in the UK. If an employee who means the qualifying criteria under the legislation submits a written request to work flexibly, the School is legally obliged to follow this procedure.

Failure to follow the procedure could lead to costly legal action against the School and the award of compensation to the employee.

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Why can’t I just make informal arrangements with the employee rather than follow this procedure? 

If an employee informally approaches you to discuss flexible working, you can try to arrange a meeting with them to see if you can agree to any new arrangements without recourse to the School’s formal procedure. However, if the employee submits a formal written request to work flexibly (e.g. on the Flexi1 form), you will have to follow the formal Procedure.

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A member of staff has emailed me asking to work flexibly but has not filled in the Flexi1 form. Is this still a flexible working request? 

The Flexi1 form is not compulsory by law but enables employees to provide all the information required by law when making their flexible working request and its use is strongly encouraged at the School.

However, if the employee has included the following information in their email (or another written format such as letter, memo or fax), they will have made a formal flexible working request;

  • Stated that their flexible working application is being made under the statutory right to request a flexible working pattern
  • Confirmed that they have responsibility for the upbringing of the child or for as a carer (for definitions and further details, please see the Flexible Working Procedure)
  • Explained what affect if any, the employee thinks the proposed change would have on SOAS as their employer and how, in their opinion, any such affect might be dealt with
  • Specified the flexible working pattern applied for
  • Stated the date on which it is proposed the change should become effective
  • Stated whether a previous application has been made to the School to work flexibly, and if so, when it was made
  • Be dated


If the employee has not provided all this information in their email, ask them to fully complete the Flexi1 form.

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The employee has not filled in all sections of the Flexi1 form. What should I do? 

You should return the form to them and ask them to complete the missing sections. Explain that the School will not commence the procedure until you have received the fully completed form (this is in accordance with section 4.1 of the Flexible Working Procedure).

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I’m away so I can’t meet all the timescales laid down in the procedure. What should I do? 

The timescales laid out in the Procedure are those set out in the legislation. You will need to get the employee’s written agreement to extend the timescales otherwise the School could face legal action. Briefly discuss why you can’t meet the timescales with the employee and then confirm this in writing to them (by email, memo or letter) and ask them to reply in writing to confirm their agreement. If the employee is unwilling to agree to an extension (they may want the arrangements to be in place by a specific date for childcare reasons), then you should seek immediate advice from your designated HR Manager.

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What can I do to prepare for the flexible working meeting? 
  • Draft an agenda of issues you want to discuss at the meeting (i.e. health and safety issues, IT issues, start date, trial period etc)
  • Inform the employee of anyone you have asked to be present at the meeting (i.e. a member of HR)
  • Ask any members of the team if they are able to cover any extra hours that may be created as a result of granting the request
  • Familiarise yourself with the person’s job description and role requirements
  • If there are health and safety implications of the request (e.g. lone or home working etc), consult the School’s Health and Safety Officer
  • If the member of staff is applying to work at home, consider if there are any potential IT issues (e.g. access to Information Systems, databases, working on confidential or financially sensitive information at home) and seek further advice from the IT Department as appropriate.
  • Discuss possible options with your designated HR Manager or HR Officer.
  • Familiarise yourself with the School’s Flexible Working Procedure


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What do I need to do to approve a flexible working request? 
  • Fully complete the relevant sections of the Flexi2 form and sign and date it. If the new flexible working requests involve changing the employee’s contract (e.g. reduction in hours of work etc), you will need to also complete a Variation of Contract form and obtain the necessary authorisation in accordance with School Procedures.
  • Give a copy of the completed and dated form to the employee and send a second copy to HR. On receipt of the Flexi2 form and Variation of Contract form (if required), HR will write to the employee to formally confirm any changes of terms and conditions (e.g. reduction in hours).
  • If the change has any health and safety implications (e.g. home or lone working), arrange for a risk assessment to be carried out
  • Discuss with the employee, how best to inform those affected by the change (e.g. team members, students or regular contacts of the employee)
  • Make any other arrangements to implement the change (i.e. pro-rata annual leave if hours are changing to part-time)


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What are the reasons that can I turn down a flexible-working request for? 

In order to comply with the legislation, the reason for declining the request has to be one (or more) of the following reasons;

  • Burden of additional costs
  • Detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand
  • Inability to reorganise work among existing staff
  • Inability to recruit additional staff
  • Detrimental impact on quality
  • Detrimental impact on performance
  • Insufficiency of work during the period the employee proposes to work
  • Planned structural changes


You cannot decline a request for any other reason not listed above.

If you are unsure if these reasons apply in a particular case, you can seek advice from your designated HR Manager.

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How should I decline a flexible working request? 

When declining a request, you should complete the Flexi2 form and ensure that you cover the following points:

  • Clearly state the business ground(s) why you have declined the request (the reason must be one of those listed above).
  • Provide an explanation of why the business reasons apply in the circumstances.
  • Set out the appeal procedure (this is included in the Flexi2 form).
  • Sign and date the Flexi2 form and send copies of the completed form to the employee and HR.


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How much detail do I have to give in my explanation of the reasons why I turned down the flexible working request? 

Your explanation should be clear, accurate and give the key facts about why you are turning down the request and why the organisational reason for turning down the request applies in the employee’s particular circumstances. This should help the employee understand that the reasons for you declining their request and hopefully make them more likely to accept your decision.

The Department for Business Enterprise & Regulatory Reform (BERR - former the Department of Trade & Industry) state that an explanation of around two paragraphs will normally be sufficient but the length will vary depending on the circumstances (and complexities) of each individual case.

The BERR Guide for Employers and Employees on Flexible Working give a number of examples showing how employers should decline such requests:

Some examples from the BERR Guide:

Example One:


Background of  example

  • A systems administrator for a small IT company who wishes to change from working weekends to week days
  • Her role involves undertaking IT maintenance to ensure all IT equipment is working fully during trading hours
  • She recently has undergone expensive training in this role


The reason for declining the request:

  • Inability to recruit additional staff
  • Burden of additional costs



“The role of weekend administrator is vital to the running of the company. It is essential that the IT equipment is operational from the moment staff arrive on Monday mornings and that maintenance occurs out of our core hours. You are aware of the difficulties that we have had during the past year of filing the Systems Administrator posts. The vacancy was advertised twice (at the job centre and in trade press) and on both occasions, no suitable applicant was found.

You subsequently expressed an interest and agreed to receive the necessary training. We discussed at the time that a necessary part of the job was to fulfil the weekend systems administrator’s duties. It was on this basis that I made the case to our board to invest substantially more on training this year than was planned and, specifically, to fund your course. The training programme was expensive and completed only last month. As such, we do not presently have the budget or resources to train any one else. When we met to discuss your application, I agreed to also speak to John, our other administrator, to explore whether he can change his hours but he is unable to help.”

Example Two


Background to  example

  • A pharmacist making an flexible working application so he can take his child to School and collect the child after School
  • There is a legal requirement for a pharmacist to be on duty at all times


Reason for refusal:

  • Inability to reorganise work amongst existing staff



“We handle prescriptions and are contracted by the NHS to provide a dispensing service between 8.30 and 5.30 each day. Despite both dispensers being prepared to cover your absence, by law I must have a qualified pharmacist on duty between these times. The only other weekday pharmacist is Sam who works part-time over the busy lunch period and does not want to change his hours of work.

You suggested during our discussion that I could make use of locum pharmacist to cover the periods when you would be absent, in the same way that I use locum pharmacists during period of leave. I explored this with the locum agency and, as I speculated during our discussion, they confirmed that it is unlikely that a locum pharmacist would be willing to work for an hour in the morning and at the end of the day. As such, the agency said that they could not guarantee cover.”

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