Your rights when requesting flexible working

The days of nine to five working hours may soon be coming to an end.

As workers move towards a healthier work/life balance with a greater focus on family time, more and more people are moving towards flexible working arrangements. You don’t have to be a parent or carer to request flexible working.

Flexible working - Via Shutterstock
Via Shutterstock

Who can apply for flexible working?

All employees who have been working for the same company for 26 continuous weeks are eligible to request flexible working; the exception being anyone with employee shareholder status, but you should have been made aware you were waiving this right. If your flexible working request is rejected, you will have to wait 12 months before submitting another.

What does flexible working mean?

Flexible working covers a variety of different arrangements, including changes to the hours or times worked, job-sharing, shift work, moving to part-time hours, term-time working and changing the location of work. These changes may be permanent or temporary, but if the change is temporary, you may want to make the arrangement informally.

How to apply for flexible working

The first step to requesting flexible working is to establish how you would like to change your normal working hours, and how this will impact your job. It isn’t enough to say that you want to work fewer hours, or don’t want to work past 3 pm, you will need to figure out what impact this will have on your work and suggest a remedy.

If you are hoping to work around family commitments, you might want to switch to term-time working and change your normal working hours to compensate for the missed time. Alternatively, you might just want to be able to work from home on short notice if you have young children.

What to include in your request

Next, you will need to put your request in writing. Make sure you include the date and clearly state that it is a statutory request for flexible working. You should outline how the changes will impact your work and offer some suggestions for how the changes might be dealt with. If you think it will help, you can also explain why you are making the claim, but this isn’t required.

What happens next?

After you’ve submitted your request, your employer has up to three months to make a decision, so it’s best to put the request in with plenty of time to spare before the proposed changes. If the changes are complicated, your employer may ask for an extension of this deadline, but you will have to agree to it.

What if it your request is rejected?

There are only eight reasons that an employer can turn down your request, and they have to justify their reasons in writing. If your request is turned down and your employer doesn’t offer you an opportunity to appeal the decision, you can make a formal complaint to an employment tribunal. If you feel that your employer hasn’t acted responsibly in considering your request, or if you feel you may have been unfairly discriminated against, you should get in touch with a dispute resolution solicitors to discuss your options.

About the author

Rebecca Harper is an aspiring freelance journalist interested in business, law and immigration policy. Since studying English at university, she pursued a career in journalism with a focus on business.


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