Advice on flexible working

Flexible working is a way of working that suits your needs as an employee, such as being able to work certain hours or work from home. Anyone can ask their employer to work flexibly. As of 30 June 2014, all employees who have served at least 26 weeks have the legal right to ask for flexible.

So what is flexible working? Flexible working is any working pattern that is adapted for the benefit of the individual and that also suits their employer. The types of flexible working include part-time, flexi-time, compressed hours, staggered hours, term time working, job sharing and working from home.  It’s important to remember though, that the rules give people the right to ask for flexible working, not the right to have it.

flexible working advice

How to apply for flexible working

You need to follow a formal process to apply for flexible working. The basic steps for making an application are as follows:

1.     The employee writes to the employer to request flexible working, stating the date of the request and the date of any previous application. 

2.     The employer must make a decision within three months of the request and tell the employee about it.

3.     Employers must offer a sound business reason for rejecting a request for flexible working

4.     If the employer agrees to flexible working they must give the employee a new contract. If they don’t agree the employee can appeal.

Employees can only make a statutory application if they have worked continuously for the same employer for the last 26 weeks. You can also only make one statutory application for flexible working each year. Therefore it is important to understand the formal process to maximise your chances of success.  You should plan your application well in advance.  The more time you give your employer, the more they are likely to be able to make the changes that you need to have flexible working.

Putting in a formal request 

When you make a formal written request for flexible working, the application must:

  • be dated
  • say that they’re making the application under the statutory right to request a flexible working pattern
  • give details about how they want to work flexibly and when they want to start
  • explain how they think flexible working might affect the business and how this could be dealt with (eg if they’re not at work on certain days)
  • say if and when they’ve made a previous application

You can write your own email or letter to your employer or use the Government's template for applying here.

The process of an employer making a decision on your case

Once an employer has received a flexible working application from their employee detailing the type of flexible working they would like to request, they have a legal duty to consider the request seriously with the aim of deciding whether the business can accommodate the requested work pattern.  

Employers should arrange a meeting to discuss the proposals – this is not a statutory requirement but is considered good practice. The employee can ask to be accompanied by a union representative or another member of staff for support. The process must be completed within three months of the date of the original request.

Agreeing to your request

If the employer agrees, they should give the employee a new contract. This will comprise a permanent change, so if the employee only wants a temporary change, it may be better to discuss a temporary arrangement with the employer.

Rejecting your request

Employers may only refuse requests where there is a clear business ground for doing so and must give a written explanation explaining why and include the following information: 

  • the business reasons for rejecting the application
  • an explanation about how flexible working affects their business
  • how the employee can appeal

Employer's can only reject your application for one of the following reasons:

  • the burden of additional costs 
  • an inability to reorganise work amongst existing staff 
  • an inability to recruit additional staff 
  • a detrimental impact on quality 
  • a detrimental impact on performance 
  • detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand 
  • insufficient work for the periods the employee proposes to work 
  • a planned structural changes to the business

If the employer doesn’t agree to the request, they must have a meeting with the employee to discuss the reasons. 

Appealing against the decision

Employees have a right to appeal this decision, for example if the employer didn't know something important related to the application when they made their decision or the employee wants to challenge information used by the employer. Employees cannot appeal against the decision if they only disagree with the business reasons for rejecting the application. 

Read more about how to appeal on Gov.uk

How we can help you

If you would like support and advice, you can talk to one of our Family Support Workers by calling our confidential helpline on 0808 800 2222. You can also share experiences and advice with other parents on our Forums. Family Lives is here for you and you can contact us about any family issue, big or small.

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