Introduction to this document

Extension of flexible working decision period

When an employee applies for flexible working, normally you must notify them of your decision within three months. However, you can agree with them to extend that period and use our letter to confirm this agreement.

Flexible working entitlement

All employees benefit from the statutory right to request a flexible working arrangement, provided they have 26 weeks’ continuous employment at the date their application is made and they’ve not made another statutory flexible working application in the previous twelve months. If an employee makes a formal application, the legislation says that you must deal with their request “in a reasonable manner” and notify them of your decision within the decision period.

Decision period

The decision period for notifying your decision is three months beginning with the date on which the employee’s flexible working application is made, or “such longer period as may be agreed” between you. An agreement to extend the decision period in a particular case must be made either before the original decision period ends or with retrospective effect, provided it’s made within three months beginning with the day after the end of the original decision period. 

Extension letter

There’s nothing that requires your extension agreement with your employee to be in writing but, as with any such agreements, it’s always best practice to record it in a letter (or e-mail) rather than to rely on a verbal agreement which might later be disputed. This is the purpose of our Extension of Flexible Working Decision Period letter. It assumes that you’ve already held a meeting with the employee to discuss your proposed extension of the decision period with them and that they’re in agreement with it. Our letter sets out the original deadline date, allows you to outline the reasons for the delay and for the extension and then confirms the new agreed deadline date. Finally, it asks the employee to sign and return a copy of the letter so that you have written confirmation of their agreement. Do keep an eye on the original deadline when dealing with a flexible working application and be wary of seeking an extension retrospectively. The employee is under no obligation to agree to your request and, if they don’t, that leaves you in breach of the statutory provisions and they can make a complaint to an employment tribunal.

Appealing provisions

In addition, do bear in mind that the three-month decision period also includes the time taken to deal with any appeal against a decision to reject a flexible working application and to notify the employee of your decision on any appeal. So, don’t leave it until the last minute to confirm your decision, particularly if the flexible working request is likely to be rejected, as you need to allow time in the three-month decision period for the appeal process to be concluded too.