Employees: what are your rights to request flexible working?

Finding that perfect balance between your work life and personal life isn’t easy, so it’s no surprise that flexible working remains such a hot topic.

The idea of working in the office, Monday to Friday, with a two day weekend is ingrained in society. But if you thought flexible working was just for plate-spinning, school run-juggling parents, you’d be wrong. In fact, it’s fast becoming a way of working that the millennial generation are coming to expect as standard.

So if you’re looking to ditch the 9-5 for a more flexible working pattern, this is how you do it.

17 January 2019

More and more of us are working flexibly at times and in locations that suit us – whether that’s in a buzzing café over lunch or at the kitchen table until midnight. The benefits of flexible working for employees and employers are well-documented: improved mental and physical health, greater engagement and more productivity.

Given this, is it any wonder that more of us than ever are looking to define a working arrangement that supports our busy lifestyles?

So firstly, what is flexible working?

Firstly flexible working isn’t just part-time work. It doesn’t necessarily mean changing the number of hours you work; it can also be about changing the way in which you work.

Examples of flexible working could include early/late start and finish times, working from home, term-time only working, job shares and compressed hours (where you work the same number of hours over fewer days).

How do I make a flexible working request?

If you’ve worked for the same employer for at least 26 weeks continually, they have a legal duty to reasonably consider your flexible working request. However it’s important to remember that whilst your employer has to consider your request, this is by no means a guarantee that it will be granted.

You can only make one flexible working request in every 12 month period – so do your groundwork, plan ahead and get it right first time.

Put it in writing:

Statutory flexible working requests need to be made in writing and clearly dated. Outline the proposed changes to your working pattern and be clear about when you want these changes to be effective from.

You should try to give your employer at least two to three months’ notice for them to consider your request and implement any necessary changes.

Keep in mind that a change to your working hours will likely have an impact on the people you work with and perhaps your customers. Think about possible objections. Show your employer that you understand how your flexible working request will affect their business and the way in which you work. You can also suggest workable solutions for dealing with any impact.

Addressing potentially negative barriers in advance will help your employer give proper consideration to your request.

Wait for a response:

Once your request has been submitted, it’s a case of waiting for your employer to consider it and decide whether it’s workable. Whilst not essential, it’s good practice for employers to arrange a meeting with you to discuss your request.

The law says that your employer needs to consider your request in ‘reasonable’ manner; or in real terms, within three months of your request being made. If your employer declines your flexible working request, they must justify their decision using one of the eight reasons laid out by ACAS. These include burden of additional costs, an inability to reorganise work among existing employees and an inability to recruit additional staff.

Can I appeal a flexible working request?

You can - but you only have the right of appeal if it is stated in your contract or company policy.

Most employers recognise the benefits of agile working and won’t turn down a flexible working request without good reason. With some compromise it may still be possible to find a solution that works for you and fits with the needs of the business.

However if your employer continues to refuse requests without justification, it may be that they have an underlying blanket ban on flexible working. This is potentially discriminatory and could be challenged in an employment tribunal.

We would love to hear from those of you that have made a flexible working request. How did it go and what tips do you have?