​Flexible working – what’s changed and how it affects you...

By: Darren Wrigley

Did you know that you now have the right to request flexible working?

Once the preserve of parents and carers, legislation changed on 30 June 2014 – if you have worked for the same employer for a minimum of 26 weeks, you are legally entitled to make a statutory application for flexible working hours.

There are a number of ways in which you can work more flexibly:

  • Part time – where you work fewer days than the standard five-day week.
  • Compressed hours – where you still work for your contracted hours but across fewer days.
  • Flexitime – choosing start and end times that fit with your needs (and agreed with your employer) and working within specified core hours, e.g. 10am to 4pm or 8am-2pm.
  • Annualised hours – you have to work an agreed number of hours during the year, but you have a degree of flexibility to decide what your regular weekly ‘core hours’ will be and how you will fulfill the other hours.
  • Staggered hours – you agree with your employer start, finish and break times that are different to the norm.
  • Working from home – remote working has become much more accessible and means that you spend some, or even all, of your working hours based at home or another location.
  • Job share – your job and the specified working hours are split between two people.
  • Phased retirement – older employees can now choose at what age they want to retire, so you can reduce your hours and work part time.

Worried how your boss might react?

Well, employers are expected to deal with such requests reasonably, which means careful assessment of the advantages and disadvantages of your application, meeting with you to discuss your request, and offering an appeal process in the event that your application is rejected.

An application for flexible working must be given in writing. Make sure you include:

  • the date of application
  • a statement that you are making a statutory application
  • how you envision you will work flexibly and when you want the arrangement to start
  • consideration of how working flexibly might impact on the business and how it might be handled
  • confirmation of any previous applications.

Your employer must make a decision within three months, or longer if that is what you agree to. If you are successful in your application, your employer must then change and amend the terms and conditions in your contract. If you are unsuccessful – and your employer has a watertight reason for refusing your application – you can try again, but you can only make one application per year.

So why might your employer reject your application?

Reasons for rejection have to be watertight and relate to business operations, extra costs if more staff have to be recruited to make up for your reduced hours, impact on quality and performance, reduced ability to meet customer demand. If the business is planning changes to the workforce, this is also a reason for refusal of your application.

Should your employer refuse your request without presenting a credible business case to support that decision, you are within your rights to take them to an employment tribunal to challenge that decision.

Further reading and guides

If flexible working is something you want to seriously consider, have a good read of these publications first:

Acas - The Right to request Flexible Working

Acas Code of Practice which explains how employers should handle requests in a ‘reasonable manner’.

You might also be interested in...

More resources